Interview: 'Blue Ruin' writer/director JEREMY SAULNIER and star MACON BLAIR


[Editor’s Note: This interview was originally published on Film Threat.]

Blue Ruin is the biggest success story to come out of (Warning: pun ahead) the blue this year. Tapped out on funding to finish the film, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier took to Kickstarter. Shortly after, he met his goal of $35K (and a few grand more). After he finished the final cut of the film, it went on to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival Director’s Fortnight, where it won the FIPRESCI Award (fun tidbit: winning this prestigious prize puts Saulnier in the same company as Paul Thomas Anderson, Jean-Luc Godard, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Terrence Malick, Aki Kaurismäki, Pedro Almodóvar and Michael Haneke, to name a few(. That’s a pretty damn good start if you ask me.

Blue Ruin started making the festival rounds and it’s all I heard about after it screened at Fantastic Fest. “Blue Ruin! You must see Blue Ruin!” pounded Twitter. Walking into it blind, I finally got my chance to see it at Sundance. This unconventional revenge movie is so violent and relentlessly suspenseful… if you can sit through it and not have that holy-shit-something-insane-is-about-to-happen squint on your face once during one of its extreme scenes, dear reader, you’re a lot tougher than I. 

A day before moving from New York, I interviewed Saulnier and star Macon Blair (who’s performance is staggeringly batshit-crazy good). We talked about the usual interview stuff — the making of Blue Ruin, taking a financial leap of faith, Kickstarter, eating croissants, etc. — but I got a lot of good answers out of them and this is perhaps one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. Enjoy. 

First off, I want to congratulate you for making curmudgeon Buzz McCallister from Home Alone do something awesome, and for allowing Jan Brady to let off some steam for being the middle sister. That was a lot of fun to watch. 
Jeremy Saulnier: Seriously. [laughs]

On a more serious note, one of the most admirable things about how the violence in Blue Ruin is handled is that it’s not glorified. Dwight knows what he’s doing is wrong and immoral. How did you balance the extreme violence and make that message clear when you were writing the screenplay?
Jeremy: It was certain a delicate balance and it came through this connection with the movies of my youth and exploitation films I love and the current state of, well, my current emotional state, and it happened to coincide with gun violence in America that made me sick to my stomach. So, I thought I didn’t want to abandon the roots all together, so I would probably still do amazing make-up effects and do a sort of technical showcase, but that violence had to be grounded in character and emotion so that when life is lost in Blue Ruin, it didn’t go down easy, and it was very tough to stomach for me, for Dwight the protagonist and the audience. So we weren’t all celebrating and cheering any time someone would die. It wasn’t, there’s no one-liners that come after or before death. It’s just awkward and grounded and blunt-force. But also I stay true to that rule that it had to be tied to emotion and the audience. It had to have an effect on the audience that was worthwhile to the narrative, not just to the…

Macon Blair: Gore score.

Macon, you’re the actor committing revenge and your character knows what he’s doing is wrong and immoral. How did you bring that mood to your character without overplaying the message?
Macon: I think we just, any sort of thought about message or theme or anything like that was discussed and handled months before we got to set and we’re shooting and, when we were shooting, we just kind of put all of that aside and it was all about hitting particular story beats and keeping everything very real and never trying to play anything as deliberately funny or deliberately awkward. Just trying to have it be like, sort of Jeremy’s catch phrase but a sort of motto he went back to a lot was, what would you do… like me, or him or any one person who isn’t an action movie star in these kind of situations. Would you be careful, would you be hesitant, would you… you know, all of those things that normally you might not see and, in a B-movie, a pulpy movie with tough guys doing tough guy things, and so we weren’t really thinking about a message or what it means about this or that, it was just about how is this real person going to behave when he’s in a stall with a guy with a knife who is trying to choke him and let it exist only on those terms. Any other meaning or value will take care of itself later on.

Jeremy: You know, and I was very competent with what we’re…  he’s compelled more by a desperate need for closure and deep emotion and sorrow, not blood lust. So he’s reluctant from the beginning, and I think that helps the character to arrive at a line where he’s not a badass and he doesn’t have evil intentions, and his intentions become perverted throughout the film as the downward spiral. He started from noble intentions, as comical as that sounds.

Dwight’s story on why he ditched his sister, vanished and went vagrant remains a mystery, why do you think this was important to leave out this part of his story?
Jeremy: I wanted to rely on the audience more, and I was just personally embracing the fact that we didn’t have the financiers or distributors on board from the beginning, to keep the vision pure and protect the audience and let them do some work and fill in the gaps. Now there was a detailed history that we established for Dwight with an almost year-by-year timeline, and Macon and I were aware of this, of course, and we had each character in their own journey in their perspective. The rule was the characters could never talk to the audience, they could only talk amongst themselves. There are scenes with tons of exposition just between Dwight and Teddy, and it’s native to that environment because it’s in an actual interrogation scene at gunpoint, and there’s clear motivation and the need for information and to extract it.

And there were even other scenes, like the diner scene had a lot more exposition in there, and we touched upon a history between Dwight and his estranged sister and their parents who were murdered 17 years prior. In the edit we had all of that in there about handling the estate, and what has been going on for the last several years, or decades rather, with Dwight’s sister, but it simply detracted from the scene because, when we cut for pure emotion, it had a lot more weight and it just worked better. It was just one of those decisions where you can’t really actually justify, but when you watch it played out, it speaks volumes as to what these two actors, Macon and Amy Hargreaves, bring to a role that can get bogged down in exposition; it hurts the story and it deflated the tension. I think a lot of this movie is about exploring how much more weight can be applied on certain things when they’re not revealed, and the audience can fill in the gaps on their own. 

I also think the unknown is a lot more terrifying, which is why Michael Meyers is my favorite of the slasher guys — we never know why, he’s just pure evil.
Jeremy: Which is why [Rob Zombie’s] remake was kind of problematic.

Macon: I hated it!

Jeremy: It’s just a guy with a rough childhood.

So Macon, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character look so menacing one minute, and ready to apologize to a butterfly if he hurt its feelings the next. How did you get into the right mindset to switch from one emotion to the other so quickly?!
Macon: [laughs] I don’t think we thought about it in terms of switching from one mindset to another, it was just Dwight was very fearful and hesitant and uncertain about what he was doing, even when it’s putting a knife into somebody’s head. Jeremy was saying he felt compelled to do that, but he wasn’t diving into it. I think a lot of that might be just the visuals, costumes, big scraggly beard, and just looking a little crazy. Beneath all that is the same sort of rabbit-y, little awesome guy that is making all these wrong choices and saying “I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot!” stretched out over the whole movie.

But yeah, the beard and the beach bum clothes: it certainly suggests a certain type of menacing thing that’s probably not there. Even when I was just walking around looking like people do, I would go in the stores and others would look at me a little closer and I would have to go out of my way to be like, “Now I’m taking out my money because I’m only going to pay for this bottle of milk and I’m not going to steal anything and everyone can relax.”

That’s funny. 
Macon: And I will say as far as the character of Dwight is when the film starts, he’s been carrying this trauma for almost two decades; he is much more focused up to a certain point and methodical in some ways, but when we get to reel number two and the whole revenge scenario, you think might it’d be the slow burner and might culminate at the end, as it usually does and the credits will roll… it’s abruptly completed and it derails the audience and Dwight. So Dwight was never intending to live past the encounter in the bar bathroom. So from then on, it is about the shift in Dwight because his motivations, and this compulsion to do this one thing he’s been carrying for seventeen years, evaporates. So he’s left in this sort of surreal limbo, and he’s clinging onto things and acting a little more rowdy because he’s confused, the world keeps turning and now he has to explore the unforeseen blowback and consequences of his actions. That’s sort of when we hit the uncharted territory, and it impacts Dwight as well. He’s trying to sort of undo what he did?

Most revenge thrillers, the anti-hero is confident throughout the film. In Blue Ruin, Dwight is terrified, bumbling, and is the most unconventional character to get revenge ever portrayed on screen. Since this would be new to audiences, why did you feel confident that it would work?
Jeremy: Well, just because we hadn’t seen it before, and it was a nice little opportunity for us to explore uncharted territory. That being said, a lot of it was by necessity. 

Macon: We couldn’t go the other way with it.

Jeremy: We were going to go kind of serious and get a badass action hero or a badass action star to be in our movie. Because we like traditional dark crime movies and genre films, but it was about having these worlds collide. The films we wanted to make, we couldn’t afford to do so we had to downscale it, and thrust one of us inside it, and embrace that and now we’ve got in there where it’s like a nice release for the audience and ourselves. So we weren’t compromising, we were just embracing the fact that we couldn’t support spectacle, we couldn’t afford two weeks to shoot one action sequence. We would have to just make this not an enemy, but embrace it early on and construct the narrative around our limitations. And I do think, and I’ve said this before, Blue Ruin is so much about the scenes that would normally be cut out of a regular action movie. It’s about minutia and details and having a… solid trajectory derailed by random occurrences and unforeseen consequences. So I think for us it was just fun to explore consequences. 

We touched a little bit on funding before. Getting this film funded was a gutsy success story – can you share how it come together for the readers?
Jeremy: It has been stated Blue Ruin was never actually funded. There was no actual financing that was secured to green light the film. Its entirety is sort of hodgepodge and bit-by-bit. We failed to get traditional financing early on and we immediately retreated. Luckily, we had already anticipated that, because as a collective we’re proud of our body of work but no one has really ever come in to finance these things.  We always had self-funding or going to friends and family. So knowing there’s no chance in Hell at making a movie past the summer of 2012 that was self-funded, because he had a son on the way or a daughter. So we had this weird time where we couldn’t wait for people to come in or pitch to their people or this or that, we have to go either way, so as soon as we failed to get the million dollar budget, Plan B kicked in immediately, because there was this closing window of time.

Anyway, my wife put in her retirement account. she liquidated it completely. I followed suit. Then we did Kickstarter, to bridge the gap from where we were to where we had to be to fully fund just production and then payroll. So that was 160k to actually shoot Blue Ruin. With my credit card standing by, we ended up in more than six figures of debt on that, but there was no proper accounting going on. The movie has to be made: period. We were completely reckless about our approach to funding, and going all in and then some. I went in to negative net worth to get this thing done. The film had to be made period. We will clean up this mess down the line.

So we shot the movie after we sort of submitted to Sundance in 2013; we didn’t get in. We stopped, came to an abrupt halt, went back to our day jobs, saved up 5k to shoot the hospital scene. So we saved our money to just blow it. Then, during the spring of 2013, we decided to get back up and raise a little bit of more money. Just again, been back to our day jobs. And I, I didn’t give a shit. I was, whatever we couldn’t afford? Credit card. I had over $100,000 on my Amex card. And you know there was a possible scenario that was looming which was if we did get into a top tier film festival, we would just have to, my wife and I, sell our house and move. Period. And luckily before that happened we were accepted into Cannes.

Once we got into that festival, the assessment of our outcome changed dramatically. We went even further into debt to finish it off in time. But when you know you’re going to be premiering in Cannes, it’s such a modest budget. You can’t guarantee it, but you can safely assume you’ll make your money back. So, yeah, it was always funded in steps, never the proper way, and always in reckless abandonment.

But also I will say I waited six years from my previous film to do it again, and it was certainly reckless and aggressive to just make this film happen no matter what in the year 2012, but it was also about I had been biding my time and been very patient for six years straight. That was as important as being aggressive, it was like knowing when not to make a movie, which was six years leading up to it. But when we went, we went all in and went aggressive, and in that time period, cameras got from “we could only afford standard definition” to beautiful HD quality and would blow up to a big screen.

With the film already being classified as a cult hit and you won an award at Cannes, what do you think this says about the future of Kickstarter?
Jeremy: I have no idea what that says about the future of Kickstarter! But I will say, for us, we used it in a very traditional way. Whereas, we needed a kickstart; we only asked people to come in after we were maxed out. So it was about bridging the gap between future and reality of making this movie or not. And honestly, back before the arguments about Kickstarter for me… what’s so great about Kickstarter is that it’s crowd funding. It’s democratized, it’s voluntary. So if people want to fund a Zach Braff movie, by all means! I mean, of course people will sort of player hate on millionaires asking others for money…

I think if Zach Braff would have just been like “Fuck all y’all, I’m keeping the money for myself,” people would have donated anyway. 
Jeremy: Honestly, it’s tougher now that they’ve changed the rules about the FCC and equity, because if we had 400 people getting infinitesimal residual checks, it would be more than we could support. We were just extremely grateful, and for us the value was, we could have actually raised that much money, but having that show of support, and having that crowd behind you, and also having a crowd behind you that you had to answer to, was key in our journey because we had to shade the conversation and pitch the movie and sell it though to other people, and in doing so we sold it through to ourselves. So, I mean, I’m grateful. Now, shipping rewards could be a pain in the ass. Again, we have to do these things to get it done and I don’t know about in the future. Macon, do you have anything to say about that?

Macon: I’m not the guy to ask about trends or anything like that; Jeremy and I were hesitant and kind of embarrassed about asking other people for money. But it was the difference between able to pay our crew or not pay our crew. Which means makes make the movie or not make the movie. And the other thing too was that it was really helpful in terms of being forced a self-assessment. If you are going to be maxing out your own credit card is one thing, but if you’re going to go out to the public and say, “Can I get like $20 bucks from a couple hundred of you,” then you really have to look and see is this worthwhile what we’re doing. Does this make sense? Is our approach credible?” Jeremy produced this pitch video that was sort of the vetting process of what are we talking about trying to do here. Are we just making it up as we go, or is there a design and a plan and a goal and a place where people feel like they are going to give their money to the movie. It’s not just going to be because we had a dream, we want to make a movie because there’s a very precise plan in place that hopefully will result in a movie that people would want to watch. 

Jeremy: I think you just cracked it. I think what it was, that self-assessment, and pitching to ourselves. Because when Macon and I were forced to look at our project from the financer’s perspective and say, “Would we give one million dollars to Macon and Jeremy to make this off beat revenge movie?” The answer was “no.” But then we finished the Kickstarter process; Macon ran most of that site, he did most of the groundwork and manages that stuff. Then we were forced to do this pitch video when we saw our project realized on that Kickstarter page we created. We said, “Does this have anything? Would we be willing ourselves to spend $35 dollars or $1,000 dollars or $5,000 dollars on this project to see it realized?” The answer was a resounding “yes.” I think, by making the commitment smaller and giving ourselves that self-assessment and yes, we wouldn’t give a million bucks, but we would certainly give a much smaller amount to just roll the dice. I think the power of Kickstarter is reducing the risk and expanding the amount of people it can support; it is a lot more feasible.

You’ve been in a few films and witnessed first-hand this successful funding story. Being no stranger to writing yourself, any chance we’ll ever get to see your graphic novel Hellcity brought to the silver screen?
Macon: I’m working on it! I’m working on it. I mean who knows, I keep bringing it up to the managers and agents and it’s going around. It actually started as a screenplay and everybody was like, this is ridiculous, this will never be a movie. And so my buddy Rick Spears had a comic company at the time, said we’ll do a comic book. Like Terry Gilliam style weirdo detective story with monsters in it, but I don’t know. But it’s something I keep my fingers crossed about but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

I’ll cross my torso and fingers as well. Question for you both. Answer at the same time. I’ll do the 1, 2, 3 and you both answer: In the end, after all the people he’s murdered, do you think Dwight becomes a villain too?
Both: No!

Jeremy: I had a hard time with [the finale]. I really fell in love with Dwight during the process.  But he has his faults for sure. But his intentions were pure. He did the best he could. 

From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Interview: NEVER LET ME GO’s Andrew Garfield


A few days ago, I took part in a roundtable interview with future webslinger, Andrew Garfield, who’s here at the Toronto InternationalFilm Festival to support NEVER LET ME GO, in which he plays one of the leads alongside Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightly. Garfield is a very humble guy that just wants to act. Studio budget or self-financed, if he finds something beautiful in a film, count him in.

Check out the interview after the break. And a big thank you to Katey Rich from Cinema Blend for sending me the transcript.

Was there ever a point where you thought there was a point of no return, taking on this franchise? You are basically not going to be able to come back to small films for a while.

No, I don’t think so. I haven’t thought about it like that. I just like acting. I just want to act for the rest of my life, and get lost in roles and just explore the diversity of what it is to be a human being, and the different experiences we all go through. Maybe that’s naive, I don’t know. I feel really excited. I’m only going to do something if I really am excited to do it, for the right reason. If I were going into something with the wrong intentions I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Doing this film is so beautiful, I don’t want to do anything but tell the story in the most simple and transient way, from novel to cinema. I don’t know if we achieved it, but everyone’s intention was the same. We just wanted to honor Kazuo’s story. My attitude is very similar. Size doesn’t really come into it. I want to be an actor, and I just want to explore what that job means. And be a vessel for someone else’s words, be a vessel for someone else’s story and facilitate that with whatever I may or may not have.

Do you want to reach more and more audiences?

That’s a byproduct maybe. But it’s not something that comes into my thought process. I want my life to be my life, and I want my work to be my work. I don’t want to identify one with the other. What’s important is life comes first. My family comes first, and my friends, and my happiness comes first. It just so happens I get happiness out of working hard. I get happiness out of working on something hard. The idea of fame isn’t something that interests me, the idea of celebrity isn’t something that interests me.

Do you at least appreciate the fame?

I don’t know. I don’t feel that I’ve had to deal with that yet. It’s really nice when someone comes up to and says, “I really liked your film, it really moved me.” “I really liked your film, it really made me think.” Or, “I was interested in your film, I don’t know if I liked it, but maybe we can talk about it.” That’s fascinating. That’s all I’ve really had so far. I just cross bridges if and when they come. There’s no point in worrying about the future. I’m just trying to be an actor. I want my kids to have normal lives, as normal as they possibly can be.

This is the first round of press you’ve done since the SPIDER-MAN announcement. Has it occurred to you that you’ll be answering SPIDER-MAN questions for the next ten years?

You just put that in my head! No, I haven’t really given it that much thought. As I was saying, I’m going to approach it like I approach any other role. I’m just going to work as much as I can, because it’s been such an important symbol to me since I was four years old. It’s meant so much to me, and it’s given me so much hope as a skinny little streak of piss, who feels more powerful inside than he looks on the outside. Every skinny boy’s dream. I’m very lucky.

Do what extent does the role give you advantage, to be able to bring awareness to smaller films?

That’s not my job. I think if I got caught up in that I would just stress myself out. If I was so calculated, I think it would just detract from the good stuff. I’m obviously aware of how difficult it is to — actors can’t get work. I’m an actor. I’m happy to be working, that’s all. It’s difficult to get work. There are people much more talented than I am, that I know, who aren’t working. Actors are at the mercy of other people, sometimes foolish people — because their eyebrows are too big — I’m just talking about myself — or whatever. Or they’re too skinny, too in perfect shape, their jawline is too attractive or too flabby. It’s death out there man, it’s tough. No, I’m just happy to work. I just soak up every moment I can of being allowed to be creative in that respect. You can only do so many Shakespeare speeches on your own in your room before starting to feel like you want to give up. That’s, to me, what purpose feels like, when you’re giving of yourself and exposing of yourself, to serve a story and therefore to serve an audience being told a story that is in tune with the universal themes of being alive.

Did you spend much time with the boy who played you as a younger?

We hugged out a bunch and chatted and talked about the role and just got to know each other. We chatted about his school and what it means to be an actor and why we both wanted to be actor. We’d muck around, we’d talk about girls, kissing girls and stuff. We’d play Frisbee, we’d play hide and seek, just the general getting to know you friendship thing. He was so good. He was so open, excited, enthusiastic, talented and raw and right there in the moment. And we all did that with our counterparts. It was set up that way by Mark and the production time. We got weeks of rehearsal together, and all just bonded and became very intimate with each other, discussed the themes of the book and themes of the movie. Every came at it with the same intention. Everyone wanted to tell Kazuo’s story in the most pure form, without any ego or imposition. Just tell the story in a really lovely way, in a really intense and pure way.

Is this the SPIDER-MAN diet?

I mean, it’s food that I’m eating. It’s all starting up, that thing. All I know is I’m probably going to have to move a lot, so I’m trying to be as healthy as I can. But that’s all me. It’s very difficult, because I like cookies a lot.

The more I hear you talk about having no interest in celebrity and whatnot, your attitude seems very similar to Heath Ledger. Was your attitude influenced by him, or did you have that and that’s why you clicked as actors?

I don’t think anyone can be defined by an influence from someone else. I admired Heath, I continue to admire Heath, incredibly. He was truly exciting to be around. He was fiery, and I don’t want to get into personal opinions about that, because it’s not my place. But I can speak highly of him still. He’s just incredible, as an actor, as a human being. Maybe there’s something in that. Maybe I saw his happiness and his life, and he was just a very creative person. I just love creatives. I love being around them— it inspires me. I got to work with such incredible people. And on that film there was terry as well. He lives for it. And with this, being with Mulligan and Knightley and Mark and Alex and Ishiguru, it was just a gift. Being with Jesse Eisenberg for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, that boy is constantly creating something, whether he’s writing a play or musical or a series of incredible jokes, he’s just a genius. Just that being the focus, and not allowing all the periphery stuff to infringe, because it takes up headspace that could be better used, whether it’s painting something terrible or buying a present for my mum. I’d rather be doing something that’s going to serve someone.

What happens to Tommy between the time that he has his original outburst at Hailsham and the outburst he has later on?

Something happens to him, and he becomes very acquiescent. I think he does what’s necessary. He does what we all have to do when we’re in a situation. We deal with the situation. We deal with what it is to be alive. You become a man, and you suppress things, and you get burned. You get burned, and then you have to heal your scar to cover it up, bandage it up, and then you have to avoid that pain again. I remember the first time I broke up with someone. It was the greatest pain ever. It made me never want to love again. We all know that feeling. So you do everything you can to distract yourself. I feel that’s what Tommy is doing. He has to somehow hold on through this free-floating anxiety, this knowledge that there’s something not quite right in this life. What’s around the corner, and it’s death. it’s inevitable. We have no frame of reference to deal with death. So he does what we all do, he deflects, he ignores. It’s like if there was a live tiger in this room right now and all we’re doing is focusing on everything that’s not that tiger. Just trying to survive, and we have to somehow live. It’s so relatable, we all do it. There are these burning, upsetting tingling in all of us. These dissatisfactions that we’re not being looked after, these worries that there’s nobody above, worries that there is no purpose. If you are constantly in that thought process and consciousness, we would all be constantly screaming. Because life is fucking unfair, and life is impossible sometimes. Once you own up to that and see that it’s very difficult not to scream and shout. Because we’re given this consciousness. We’re not just animals, unfortunately. We have a consciousness to supposedly elevate us, but it does more harm than good sometimes. I think in-between he’s trying to come to terms with life, like we alare. He has that hope for deferral with Kathy, and he goes to great lengths to make sure that he has the opportunity to it. he has hope. It’s a religious hope. He’s lived his life as well as he could. He’s looked after this body, he’s done everything he can. One should be rewarded for being moral, for being good, for not betraying anyone, for looking after yourself. There should be some payback for that, and there isn’t he finds out very brutally. There’s silence. He screams, and no one rescues him. He gets held very tightly by someone he loves. That’s what Ishiguro is trying to say. We have very short time here, and love as much as you can, and love as many people as you can. Hold on to the people that mean something. I think that’s a microcosm of what he’s talking about. It’s very simplistic, but obviously it’s much deeper and richer than that.

Talking about Facebook, Twitter, social media. It’s a way for non-celebrities to feel famous and report on their minutiae. What’s your perspective on that given your role in THE SOCIAL NETWORK?

Luckily my role in THE SOCIAL NETWORK doesn’t know much about that. He’s an economics major. So my research wasn’t Internet-based, it wasn’t social media-based. He’s actually naive to it. He’s being exposed to it gradually as the film goes on, so I didn’t have to do much work in terms of that. I had to do work elsewhere. Yeah, I think I admire it greatly. They are the wizards of our generation, they are the alchemists. I just got given an iPad as a gift for my birthday, and it’s unbelievable. It’s truly magic. Zuckerberg revolutionized the way we communicate globally.

Do you have a Facebook account?

No, I don’t have one. But I’ve of course been on. It is so simple and genius, because everyone wants to be on their own [magazine] cover, and that’s what it’s giving people. It’s kind of an extension of what our playground society is. I admire it greatly. Unfortunately we could all be very rich if we had been on that bandwagon. They are the great people who are defining our time. Surrender to it, it’s fucking great.

Can you talk about your discussions with Marc about your interpretation of Spider-Man?

We’re starting to talk about it. It’s all very early stages. I haven’t really got much to say, because I don’t have anything to say about it. It’s all very early and the exploration stage.

Most times it’s a decade until a series is rebooted, and this is like three or four years. Does that give you any pause to do something different?

No. What’s wonderful about Spider-Man is it’s no one’s and it everyone’s. It means so much to so many people. It’s mythology and a legacy. There is no definitive version. You look back at the Dick Cook Stan Lee comics to the Ultimates and the Incredibles and the Amazings, then you go to the original cartoon series in the 70s and how that translated to the one in the 90s that Avi Arad was involved in, it’s constantly shifting and reflecting the time and being as relevant and topical as it can be. I think it’s going to shift again. I don’t know in what way, but it’s going to be defined by where we are as a society, and hopefully people are going to enjoy it, because I think we’re going to enjoy making it.

Have you met Stan Lee yet?

No, I haven’t. That’s going to be very cool though.

You have a BACK TO THE FUTURE watch?

I do, yeah. My girlfriend just got it for me. It’s a limited edition. Zemeckis made 20 of them for his electrical crew because they worked so hard on the first one. It was a starting gift for the second one. My girlfriend got it off of eBay. That’s like the best film ever made.

From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Interview: NEVER LET ME GO’s Carey Mulligan


Carey Mulligan, what a beautiful and talented young lady. Her first burst on the scene got her an Academy Award nomination, and now she’s starring alongside Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley in a much-buzzed-about TIFF film, NEVER LET ME GO. The film is directed by Mark Romanek and is based off the novel of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro.

As with Andrew Garfield, I sat with various journalists in a roundtable and interviewed Mulligan about NEVER LET ME GO, WALL STREET 2, and what it’s like work on independent films versus studio-budgeted. Check out the interview after the break. Big thank you to Katey Rich from Cinema Blend for sending me the interview transcription.

Are we in control of our own fates?

Oh, God. I just woke up! Well, no, not ultimately. We could all be hit by a bus tomorrow. But you can make choices to live the life that you want to.

And do we live for ourselves or for other people?

I don’t know. I suppose that’s individual to the person.

What about you?

I don’t know. I suppose I’m sort of in the position where I can be pretty selfish. Because I don’t have a family or kids or anything. I have my parents and my friends, that’s as big as my world gets.

Had you read the book before all this?

Yes, I had. My mum is a big Ishiguro fan, and I read it pretty much as soon as it came out, because she said I should read it and I loved it. I thought if they made a film, it’s in the book she’s 31 at the end, so I thought that was a couple of years away. Then they brought the ages down and made it so we could play them from ages 18 to 28. But I love the book, I was always in love with the book. I read it six times between getting the job and now.

What did you love about the book?

I hadn’t read anything else. I hadn’t even read Remains of the Day, which is the book pretty much everyone has read. I loved his writing. I loved how unsentimental it was, and how much he said in these little tiny phrases. And I love how his writing isn’t overly intellectual and doesn’t exclude the audience. It invites the audience in. Ishiguro is an incredibly intelligent person, and his writing could be really cerebral, and it’s not.

What is the trick to adaptations when you’re developing this character? You’re balancing between the character in the book and the character in the script.

When I was reading the script I was really nervous, because I always hate it when adaptations do a bad job. I wanted them to do it right, and I felt like they really did. The script really captured the book perfectly. There’s always a scene that you miss, and the whole way through the shoot I was asking if we could put in scenes from the book that we just didn’t have time for. So I think Alex [Garland, screenwriter] really got the book perfectly, and the way he divided it into three chapters was really smart. I think you have enough time with the characters and it’s not a long, laborious film. I got a lot from the script. I was with the book every day, always going back to look at the book. We had two weeks to talk about it, two weeks to sit around. I think the voiceover was the biggest indicator of who she was. It was so faithful to how unreliable she is as a narrator in the book. She’s always skirting around the subject, always diminishing her feelings. She’s saying, “I felt a tiny stab of pain,” these tiny statements that mean a huge amount. That’s what I loved about Kathy’s role in the film, how little she had to say. Most of the characters I’ve played have been really emotionally articulate and expressive and said everything on their mind. With Kathy, she really never does. Even in the voiceover she holds back so much. She says, “I reminded myself I was lucky to have any time with him at all,” and that sounds very virtuous and sweet, but it’s bollocks really. She’s talking herself into this state of acceptance all the time. And I thought that was cool, that she has the least dialogue.

What’s the accent? It sounds Northern.

I don’t know. Isobel, who played the younger Kathy, we just tried to have the vague accent.

Is it funny to be promoting this, realizing how much has changed since you shot it, before WALL STREET and the Oscar nomination?

I don’t know. Yeah, this was after Sundance, and before the film came out, and before I got WALL STREET. Well, I got offered WALL STREEET as we were wrapping NEVER LET ME GO. I suppose it is. It’s the polar opposite of WALL STREET. And in WALL STREET, she’s always emoting and expressing and saying everything.

Has the Oscar nomination changed you at all?

No, not really. I haven’t worked since WALL STREET. It was all a big surprise. It was quite nice though, because I was really ignorant to the whole process of this festival wards, buzz, all that stuff. I was just dancing around Telluride with Lone [Scherfig, director of AN EDUCATION], having a really nice time. I wasn’t aware of all the people on their Blackberries checking reviews and going all crazy. It’s different this year. I feel like I know what’s going on. It makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t like that its heading towards that the only merit a film can have, the only value it can have is if it gets nominated for an award. That seems like such a shame, because all we wanted in this film was to make the best film possible, and most faithful film, and try not to mess up what Ishiguro wrote. That’s the only thing that’s changed; I’m slightly more aware of the industry going around these things rather than just the films. Last year was a lot more relaxing.

Then does something like a comedy intimidate you?

I was the straight man in AN EDUCATION, but I don’t think any of us thought — it’s only when you’re in front of an audience that you realize when things work and when things don’t. I don’t think I’m interested in like a straight-out comedy, with no real heart or anything. I definitely lean toward drama. But I wouldn’t want to do something, just a vacuous comedy about nothing. I like FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, things that have a heart and then there’s funny surrounding it.

With NEVER LET ME GO, you’re working with younger actors. Can you talk about the difference between that and moving on to something like WALL STREET, where you’re playing Michael Douglas’s daughter and being directed by Oliver Stone. It’s quite a leap.

NEVER LET ME GO felt quite comfortable, because I knew a lot of the crew, I had worked on TV things with them, and I kind of knew the producers really well byte he time we were shooting. Keira and I have been friends for years. It was nerve-wracking because Kathy is supposed to be holding the story together — not holding the story together, but I felt kind of pressured, because she’s the narrator, to not upset fans of the book. That was always running through my mind to make sure we were faithful to the book, and would my mom think that’s a good choice, because she’s a massive fan of the book. So when you’ve got her in your mind every day… and WALL STREET, yeah, I kind of wanted to be in a big boy’s film and be intimidated. There were other roles going on in England that I was kind of involved in, but there was nothing going on that I would wake up in the morning and go, “oh, shit, how am I going to do this?” The challenge was to try and make the girlfriend role in a Hollywood film effective and not just redundant. I think a lot of the time, through no fault of the actress, the girlfriend can be marginalized and just an accessory to the plot. I thought there was something to play there, and more than just the girlfriend. That was sort of exciting. I did want to be one of the few women in a big, masculine film. And it was fun. Oliver didn’t treat me like a girl. I don’t think he saw me as a girl, because I had short hair or something. I do think I got equal treatment. I loved working with all of them, including Michael. We sort of kept a distance from each other. We didn’t get all cuddly off set, we were quite removed, so when we played those scenes, I didn’t really know him, and that was appropriate because I didn’t know him in the film.

Did you go back and watch the original WALL STREET, not just to get a sense for the story but see how Daryl Hannah’s character existed in that masculine world?

Yeah, I did. Oliver wanted me to watch it to try and glean Gekko-isms. There wasn’t much I could do, because the character was so different. Not really Daryl Hannah’s character so much. She was in that world and attracted by those things in a way that Winnie’s not. There wasn’t any need to study her so much. The reason I looked at it really was to glean what Gekko’s doing, to look at my mum in the film to gain some sense memory of her. But she’s not in the second film, she’s disappeared by that point.

Is it true your parents didn’t want you to become an actress?

Well, no, it’s a silly job. Not a silly job, but it’s difficult to be able to get a break to work at all, and then work consistently. They wanted me to have something else that I could do if the whole acting thing didn’t work you. They would have let me have a go eventually, but they wanted me to go to university, get a degree, be able to teach at least or do something sensible. I was very angry at the time, but then I get it. I know so many brilliant, talented, way more talented than me— and they don’t work. They haven’t had that one meeting that sparks off another meeting, and they haven’t gotten that one job that gets them seen. It’s like a chain of events that gets you somewhere safe.

How did they finally change their mind?

When I got my first job, when I got PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, they were behind it. I didn’t even expect to get another job after that. But they were supportive from then.

Do you feel like an exception in Hollywood right now, in terms of casting a young woman your age?

No, not really. I don’t know. I think there are brilliant young actresses my age. I did a Vanity Fair cover with twelve of them — I was like, “fuck, you guys…this is scary.” I haven’t worked this year because I haven’t found the one — everyone’s looking for something different. There are parts out there, but there weren’t parts out there that were dramatically different from what I had already done. I’m starting one later this month.

From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Interview: NEVER LET ME GO director Mark Romanek


In the third part of our interviews for LET ME GO, we spoke to director Mark Romanek. You might remember Romanek’s ONE HOUR PHOTO, which broadcasts one of the many weird sides of Robin Williams. With a background of directing music videos, Romanek has a very unique vision for film and he seems very passionate about every project he takes on.

This week, NEVER LET ME GO released to the public. After you see the film, read this interview. Romanek goes into a lot of great detail on why this movie is very effective when it comes to life intimating art and the feelings you should pull coming out of the movie. Interview after the break!

So at what point did you come onto this project and how long did it take to get made?

We finished about three months ago. We shot about a year and a half ago, I think. It hasn’t been sitting around on the shelf too long. I got involved with it about two years ago. Peter Rice recommended me to Andrew McDonald, and Alex [Garland] and I went and met with them in London and met Kazuo [Ishiguro]. I guess they liked my idea as a movie, it jived with what they wanted to do. From that point on it was all about finding the right Kathy. Peter Rice saw Carey in AN EDUCATION at Sundance and sent all of us a four word text that said, “hire the genius Mulligan.” I asked him why it was such a brief [text] and he said, “because the movie isn’t even over yet.” He knew that we were struggling to find the right actress and he saw this girl, and just like everyone else in the world they went “holy crap, she’s amazing.” He said “that’s Kathy,” and at that point the movie was greenlit.

At that point were you wanting to make Kathy a little bit younger than she is in the book?

We were just looking for the right actress and it didn’t seem to be a big deal if she was a bit younger than in the book - it didn’t seem to change anything fundamentally, so when we found Carey we made her a little bit younger. I didn’t see the matter, as long as they were pushing the late twenties.

It is funny, though, that when the movie was made, obviously people in the industry knew who Carey Mulligan was and we have Andrew [Garfield], who looks to be on his way to stardom. When you shot it, Keira Knightley was the biggest star, and in five years people might be [saying], “oh, this has Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan in it.” Why do you think this is all happening for them?

They have it, whatever “that” is. They’re brilliantly good. There’s an appeal that they have. They’re both beautiful to photograph and yet unusual looking in a way - not traditionally or classically beautiful - and they have the chops. They’re serious young actors.

What kind of discussions did you have about filming the donations? It’s one thing to read about things, it’s another to watch them on-screen.

We felt like it would be a cop out to not deal with the reality of what’s going on. It’s meant to be shocking, it’s not meant to be disgusting. I tried to infuse it with a sadness and emotion to it when she’s sort of left there all alone, like a piece of meat, and so it’s not just shocking and gratuitous. I think it would have felt wrong to not deal with it directly at some point.

Do you see yourself continuing in the independent arena? You kinda had flirted with big budget studio stuff.

Yeah, probably for a couple more films. I’d love to make a bigger film if [we had] resources, if the story is exciting to me.  But I’d rather do it when I have more autonomy to navigate the studio process, which I didn’t really have the last time around. Look at David Fincher or Christopher Nolan, they’ve worked themselves into the position where they can make big budget films in the way they ‘d like to. I’d rather wait until I get to that place, if I’m lucky enough.

We are in a time when a lot of people, after one independent film, are getting offers. SPIDER-MAN is the ultimate example of that happening. Do you feel like you have to be especially wary since someone could be dangling a lot of money in front of you and then push you around?

That’s a yes or no question and the answer is yes. You know, it’s a jungle out there. I had a really nice experience on this movie. All the director wants is their idea of the movie to be believed in. And for the producers to facilitate, you do the job that they hired you to do. People underestimate how, if a film comes out well, how it has to be beautifully produced as well, not just beautifully directed and acted. Sometimes producers get a bad wrap and on this film, I think you met some of them, Alex and Kazuo are technically producers. It was a very supportive and collaborative thing. Whether you like it or don’t like it, it’s the film we wanted to make.

The thing I think is kind of interesting with this movie is it fits in the sci-fi era where we’re talking about cloning, but in the past. Normally I’ve seen topics like this dealt in the future. Did you feel like you had to approach it in any different way, because normally in the future you see everything is very modern and sleek?

Yeah, it’s more hard sci-fi! First of all, I wasn’t making a science fiction movie, I was making a love story. I always felt like the science fiction, maybe Kazuo said something similar, is really just a delivery system for these more interesting themes about immortality and friendship and love and how we choose to make use of this brief time we have in the world and how we come to the end of our lives and regret not lived it. These are the things that Kazuo writes about in a lot of his books. I was making a love story, the science fiction is the suit that the whole thing played out in, and it’s Kazuo’s original conception to be in alternate history, not futuristic, so it never felt right. You know we dabbled with some more futuristic-looking buildings or some of the sci-fi tropes you’d expect in sci-fi films…it never felt right. Since the film is about the preciousness of time, the brevity of our time, having things show the patina and age of time and the wear, having things be old, and show the effects of time, it felt like a more evocative setting for the themes in the movie. It’s one of the things that makes it an original idea as a novel.

Since you’re dealing with those themes every day, before you start, while you shoot, as you’re putting it together, do you have a different approach to life now?

Well, I think the book affected a lot of people. It affected me before I made the film. It made me think about how every day is so precious. We really are here for a very brief amount of time. I have two beautiful children and a beautiful wife and every day I put this [iPhone 4] away when I’m with my kids and I try to make those moments count. One of the nicest things I had someone say to me about the film was that they called their father, because they realized they haven’t spoken to him in like, three or four weeks, and called him to say ”I love you, Dad. Thanks for being a good dad.” And, you know, this moved people to tell people that they love them because that’s what’s important.

Things like that can be a part of movies a lot, but not necessarily spoken out loud. You know how they always say there’s the seven stories. That’s one of these themes. Is it hard to kind of deal with that, you know “live every moment” thing, and how did it feel original when you’re making a movie like this, because the story is original, but the themes are as old as time?

You’re lucky enough to find that, some original new idea for a story or a tone of a film you haven’t quite seen before, and yet the themes that are in it are sincerely expressed and meaningful - that’s what you’re looking for. That’s why I wanted to do it. I felt it was sincere and that I could do something that I hadn’t quite seen before. It’s not wholly original, there are other films that have similar plots. There’s other cloning stories or whatever, but the tone of it I felt I hadn’t really seen. I couldn’t find a template for a movie that had handled this type of thing, so it felt a bit out on a limb. There’s like, Truffaut’s FAHRENHEIT 451 is kind of a literally subtle science fiction, but you know, it’s not the same. Godard’s ALPHAVILLE is a subtle science fiction film, but that film’s much more of an arch.

So subtle science fiction you think is a good banner?

No, I mean it’s a love story and science fiction gives it an original twist. I mean this sort of patina of science fiction gives the love story an original twist, but I’m very concerned that people come to see it [as an] emotional story and engage with it emotionally. If they think they’re coming to see a film with ideas on social commentary and the ethics of biology and stuff they’re going to miss the movie. They’re going to be watching the wrong movie.

Be sure to also check out Kate’s review of NEVER LET ME GO, along with my interviews with stars Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.

From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Interview: “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” author, Ned Vizzini


Interviewing Ned Vizzini was a dream come true for me. I first read his third novel, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” about three years ago, when my mom bought it for me for Christmas. The kind of funny story on my end is she thought I would relate to the main character Craig, and I really did (high school was rough, man). I fell in love with this book and read it over and over and over.

When it was announced that the novel would be made into a feature film, I sought out Vizzini and we began messaging one another (via Facebook) about doing an interview about the book and film. If you’ve seen my TIFF coverage, you would have seen that I did see the film and spoke with its directors and main cast. This was a true delight. After the break is my interview with Vizzini. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did conducting it - this one hit close to home.

I have kind of a funny story about how I got ahold of this book. My mom got it for me for Christmas about three years ago. She said, “Chase, I read the synopsis and I instantly thought, ‘This has Chase written all over it.’” I’m still not sure whether or not that’s a compliment, but I’m flattered either way. With that, I know that this is semi-autobiographical. 1) How much of this is your story? and 2) How difficult was it to spill out some of the depression you were battling?

What a kind mother! Thank her for me. My mother is always sending me articles about alternative mental-health remedies; she’s more concerned about me than I am.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is 85% true. I was actually depressed; I was actually in a psych hospital in Brooklyn. I freaked out while I was trying to finish a book and my mental state spiraled and I called a suicide hotline and they told me to go to the hospital and I did. I had a singular experience in there; I met people who made me look at life in a different way. When I left and started writing about it, I made the main character a teenager as opposed to a guy in his early 20s and added the love triangle because those always make novels better.

You might think depression was difficult to write about, but it was a huge relief. It came to me naturally. Seeing the words on the page got them out of my head.

The story deals with a very serious topic, but handles it in a sort of light-hearted and funny way. What kind of troubles (if any) did you have going about it that way?

I believe in the healing power of humor. I believe that anything that can be laughed at can be controlled and handled.

When I was in the hospital, there was one point where I was desperate to use the phone. They had one payphone in there and it was like prison; there was a social hierarchy behind who could use the phone and if you didn’t get in line early you would miss the cutoff at 7pm and that was it — no phone for you. I missed the cutoff and was despondent until this other hospital patient looked at me and went, “What are you so stressed about? You want to make a call? Just use the banana phone!” And he held a banana to his head like it was a phone.

How was I not supposed to laugh at that? Humor in the psych hospital is one of the few things people have.

Since I related so much to our main character, Craig, I’m certain others have as well. So many times the media use the “life imitates art” aspect when something bad happens - do you feel any sort of pressure or responsibility when you publish your books or articles about teen angst (which just so happens to be the title of your first novel)?

I don’t feel any pressure or responsibility to do anything but entertain people with my writing. That’s enough. I have enough problems making the writing good.

I know some authors want to give some input on books they’ve written that are being adapted into a film, and some want the director(s) to have complete creativity. What kind of involvement did you have (if any) for IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY?

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden had complete creativity with the film and I was very comfortable with that. Based on my first meeting with them, I knew they understood where the book was coming from, so I trusted them. I did suggest a song for the film, “Happy Today” by the WoWz, that ended up on the soundtrack; also before the “Under Pressure” scene one character wears a T-shirt for the San Francisco band Drunk Horse — that’s my T-shirt. It’s in my closet right now. Have fun trying to spot it!

This is your first book adapted into a film and the film premiered last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is one of the most prestigious festivals on the planet. How cool did that feel?

Less cool, more lucky. That would be the best word to describe how I felt seeing IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY premiere at Toronto. A whirlwind of other emotions came into play too but honestly I could write an essay about them and probably will, so let’s stick with lucky.

Do you realize how badass your last name is? I’m willing to bet you’ve gotten PRINCESS BRIDE quotes all your life. I’m sorry brings back bad memories, but it’s just so awesome.

Vizzini is a fairly common southern Italian and Sicilian last name; I’m half-Sicilian. I used to hear PRINCESS BRIDE references but people preferred to make fun of me for other things as a kid, like talking too much. I did once meet Wallace Shawn, who plays Vizzini in PRINCESS BRIDE, and he’s had it rougher than me. He’s an accomplished writer and actor and he’s still got people coming up to him going “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr.?

Dinosaur Jr. Because I mentioned to a friend of mine that I liked a Dinosaur Jr. song and he’s one of those people who has 60,000 hours of music on his computer he gave me their whole catalog (not including 2009’s Farm) and so I’ve got so much of their music on my computer that I prefer them by default. But Nirvana beats both these bands.

From the GATW Archives: Skype Interview: Marc Clebanoff, writer/director of BREAK (featuring a film cameo by David Carradine)


Getting off the phone for the third time with the same journalist with the same questions can be quite annoying for a director. Hell, it can be quite annoying for anybody - not Marc Clebanoff.

You see, I was given the chance to interview the young director over the phone - whose film debut just so happens to be one of David Carradine’s last roles - and it took me not one, not two, but three times to get it right. You can blame me for it, but I will blame technology.

In the interview, instead of talking about David’s recent death, we celebrated his life with some of the intimidating and somewhat awkward memories Marc had with him on set. Marc was kind enough to send me the clip he talks about in the interview.

Check out the interview and when you’re done, head over to to rent/buy the DVD!


From the GATW Archives: Interview: Nick Frost (PIRATE RADIO/THE BOAT THAT ROCKED)


Last, but certainly not least, in my interviews for PIRATE RADIO, Mr. Nick Frost. Of course, this guy needs no introduction. If you’re a movie geek like the GATW crew, then you’ve seen some of his funny performances and know who this teddy bear of man is.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous meeting Nick. Biggest reason? He’s just a regular-looking guy like myself - except a lot funnier, a lot richer, and with a little more charm. When Nick came in the room, sat down, and started talking, those nervous jitters quickly went away. The guy really is just a regular dude. Before he got his start as an actor, he was a restaurant manager for years. He literally went from working for the man to telling the man where he can stick it.

When interviewing Nick, our roundtable covered a lot of different topics. Some strange (his long hair and mustache), and some very interesting (being naked, American fans, and watching himself on the big screen). Check out the interview after the jump, and let us know what you think.

Also, I want to point out how great of a guy Nick is. After confirming his Twitter account is in fact him (@NickJFrost), I sent him a tweet telling him it was nice speaking to him. Just a few moments later, he directed messaged with this, “Nice to meet you too. Have a good flight.” Gentleman, scholar, and all-around nice guy.

On being half-nude with Tom Sturridge:

I don’t mind being nude, I don’t have a problem with it…you know I have that kind of weird reverse body dysmorphia where I look in the mirror and think, “Man, you are hot” (laughs) and then go and try on to buy jeans in a size 30 and think, “why can’t I fucking get these things on? Why can’t I get these over my knees?” (laughs) I’m very happy with the way I look.

On funny on-set stories:

Just kind of holding Tom Sturridge and I, being naked, and I was holding him like a small dead bird (laughs)…if you had to show an alien race, just how different human bodies can be, Tom would be at one point and I would be at the other

On the first bedroom scene, shared with Talulah Riley:

I think as beautiful and sophisticated as Talulah is, you forget that she’s actually fairly young…I like to think I’m a gentleman, and I think it was important to make her feel comfortable…I think it can be quite tough for a young lady being semi-naked in front of forty cameramen and sound men and electricians, you know it’s not a natural state of affairs really.

On being famous in America:

Over here it’s a bit difficult with the camera phone world, now it’s slightly annoying. I don’t see myself as a celebrity. If someone takes my picture with a camera phone without saying, “Hey, do you mind if I have a picture?,” I see that as tremendously annoying…I don’t see myself as public property. I’m not out there for the celebrity. I never go to parties or premieres…I think if you start to go down that road you open up a can of worms because you are then public property and people can stand outside your house and take photos of your wife while you’re having lunch, and you know, that’s not why I started doing this. Yesterday…I started smoking again, like a fucking idiot, and I was having a ciggy last night after we finished here [PIRATE RADIO press party], and there were paparazzi outside and that [snapped] me smoking, and that kind of upsets me because you know, if my mother-in-law sees it, I’ll get a fucking flea in my ear. (laughs)

On watching his own performances:

Yeah, I think everyone does, even the people who say, “Oh, I never watch anything I do,” it’s a lie…I think every actor is fairly egocentric enough to watch themselves at least once. But once is usually enough…I’ve never seen PENELOPE or WILDCHILD…Last time I saw “Spaced” was eight years ago…I’ve never watched it again. But yeah, once is enough. Just to see if it’s funny, or if I’ve done a good job.

On his long hair:

The 80s are back now…it’s the 80s (laughs)…I think a lot of it is because I am unemployed…Simon [Pegg] and I took like a year to write PAUL and then we started shooting PAUL, [and] my hair’s long in that and we’ve been wrapped on that like six weeks, so I just haven’t cut it…I’ve grown a terrible mustache to annoy my wife, which is now being kept for a role that I’m doing so my wife will be very upset…slightly.

From the GATW Archives: Skype Video Interview: Ashton Kutcher (SPREAD)


It’s very intimidating to speak to a guy who’s married to one of the sexiest women in Hollywood, pops Cristal on a regular basis with P. Diddy, and has the most followers on Twitter. But you know, Ashton Kutcher is one of the most laidback guys I’ve ever spoken to. Normally I have some sort of funny intro to start off an interview, but always abandon it due to high anxiety. Not with Ashton - I went with it, and so did he.

Check out the two versions of our interview with Ashton below. Please let us know which you like best. We did it on Skype, which is what studios are trying to break into. Not sure if I’m digging this just yet (bad video quality and I’m a huge fan of face-to-face interaction) but just being able to speak to Ashton is a huge honor. I use the word honor because you can tell his responses to our questions were genuine and honest. This gentleman worked his ass off to get SPREAD off the ground.

SPREAD opens in theaters August 14, and stars Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche, and Margarita Levieva.

Version 1


From the GATW Archives: Video Interview: Neill Blomkamp (writer/director) and Sharlto Copley (actor/badass) talk DISTRICT 9 and possible sequel!


Back at Comic-Con, I briefly spoke to Neill and Sharlto (see that HERE!) about their hush hush sci-fi flick, DISTRICT 9. For those who don’t already know this, DISTRICT 9 is the full-length follow up to Neill’s short film, ALIVE IN JOBURG.

Last week I got to speak to the nice fellas again, going more in depth with how DISTRICT 9 was created. If you’ve seen the film, then you know there are layers upon layers, so it would be easy to sit with the two and just talk for hours. Unfortunately, I only had around six minutes, so I narrowed it down to what I thought were the questions people would enjoy learning about. So, without further ado, watch and enjoy!

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From the GATW Archives: Interview: Bobcat Goldthwait (writer/director, WORLD’S GREATEST DAD)


There’s two things I learned from interviewing Bobcat Goldthwait. The first being this: NOTHING is taboo. When I say nothing is taboo, I mean he’ll bring up his idea of a musical that involves fisting - and there’s no snickering (except on my end) and he speaks of it (fisting) like it’s no big deal.

The second thing I learned is that Bobcat is the coolest person I’ve ever spoken to. That became obvious when the first question I asked him was “how are you doing?” And his response was “Oh, I’m okey-doke.” Bobcat, if you read this, let’s do another soon, k?

Check out our interview, where we talk about his new film, WORLD’S GREATEST DAD. This is fairly long interview, clocking in around 19 minutes, but there’s a bonus - I also spoke with Daryl Sabara, who plays Robin Williams’ doomed perverted son. I can promise you this, this will be the best 19 minutes your ears will ever have. Okay, maybe not the best, but I can promise you won’t regret listening to this interview. Both Bobcat and Daryl are very, very interesting people. Give it a go! Let me know what you thought!


From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Interview: Joan Rivers and Co-Directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg


Back at Sundance I did a roundtable interview with the crème de la crème of divas, Joan Rivers, who was in town to promote the world premiere of the documentary, JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (my review can be found HERE).  This fabulous documentary tells us two very important things about the lady: first, she’s a survivor; and second, she has, without a doubt, one of the dirtiest mouths to come out of show business. Around the middle of the interview, Rivers was accompanied by co-directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg.

I was going to transcribe this interview, but Rivers is a riot and needs to be heard, not read.  Listen to the full 30-minute interview after the break.  This interview was conducted at Sundance with's Katie Hasty!


From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Video Interview: Philip Seymour Hoffman (JACK GOES BOATING)


Editor’s Note: This was originally published on January 28th, 2010.

A few days ago, I sat down with Philip Seymour Hoffman to talk about his new film, which marks his directorial debut, JACK GOES BOATING. In this story of broken – and sometimes clumsy – romance, Hoffman also takes the lead as Jack, a limo driver who dreams of better days and better pay. His daily pastimes are hanging out with best friend and fellow limo driver, Clyde (John Ortiz), and jamming to reggae (he’s even given his hair a weak attempt at dreadlocks). Jack wants love, and Jack may have found love when Clyde and his backbiting wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), set him up on a blind date with Lucy’s co-worker, Connie (Amy Ryan - who is best known for her brief stint on “The Office”).

Philip and I did the interview at the Myspace Cafe. My mood: Happy. Check out the interview after the jump, where we talk about the pressures of being a first-time director and other things JACK GOES BOATING related. Also, my review of the film can be read HERE. Big thanks to our friend, A.J. Meadows, for filming!

Interviewed/Edited by: Chase Whale


From the GATW Archives: Interview: THE MISSING PERSON actor Michael Shannon


Michael Shannon’s one humble dude. You probably wouldn’t expect that after seeing some of his insane performances (BUG, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). I spoke with Michael on the phone last week about his recent role, THE MISSING PERSON, and the man’s answers to all my questions were very honest, very cool, and very well-formed. Check the out the interview, as well as the film’s official synopsis, poster, and trailer after the jump!

THE MISSING PERSON’s official synopsis: “Writer/Director Noah Buschel’s third feature, The Missing Person, stars Michael Shannon as John Rosow, a private detective hired to tail a man, Harold Fullmer, on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles. Rosow gradually uncovers Harold’s identity as a missing person; one of the thousands presumed dead after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Persuaded by a large reward, Rosow is charged with bringing Harold back to his wife in New York City against his will. Ultimately Rosow must confront whether the decision to return Harold to a life that no longer exists is the right one. The Missing Person co-stars Academy Award © Nominee Amy Ryan and features a strong supporting cast including Margaret Colin, Linda Emond, Yul Vazquez and John Ventimigli

Missing Person Poster

GATW: Can you talk about how you got involved with THE MISSING PERSON? How you met up with Noah [Buschel, director], and what that process was like?

Michael Shannon: Well basically, it was through Amy Ryan [co-star]. Amy is a friend of mine and we had worked together on another project and Noah had written THE MISSING PERSON and he was trying to figure out who would be right for the part of John and Amy suggested me. And there was a reading, I guess they were trying to drum up some financing for the movie, and they had a reading of the screenplay. So Noah asked me to do the reading and he enjoyed what I did at the reading, I guess, enough to ask me to do the film and it was pretty much that simple. But Amy Ryan definitely was responsible for getting Noah and I in the same room.

GATW: For your role, you play an alcoholic private investigator; did you hang out with any PIs? What type of research did you do for the role?

MS: Well, I actually didn’t hang out with any detectives because I felt like was John was a pretty unique character in a pretty unique situation. You know the thing about the film, at least what I see when I watch it, is that it has a very dream-like kind of imaginary quality to it. I think a lot of this story is actually, potentially going on in John’s head, I don’t necessarily think it’s something that’s actually happening. I mean I wouldn’t want to take that possibility away from anybody watching it, but just in the way I personally approached it, I felt like it was much more than trying to convince anybody that I was a detective or that I understood what it was like to be a detective. It was more about— what exactly had happened to this guy? What was wrong with him? Why was he living in a dumpy little apartment in Chicago in a drunken haze? And going on that journey.

GATW: This film is obviously an indie film and it’s fantastic. What about indie films draws you to it?

MS: There’s a lot about it actually, generally on an independent film you have to work with fewer resources in a shorter amount of time. Which is a good thing for the actors because on a film that has a lot of money and a lot of time, you spend a lot of time sitting around. But on a lower budget film you don’t spend much time sitting around at all, you show up and you’re working all day and you go home at night with a sense of accomplishment as opposed to just feeling like you sat around all day long doing nothing. So that’s enjoyable.

I also feel like, if THE MISSING PERSON was a big budget studio film it would be a totally different film and Noah wouldn’t have been able to take a lot of the risks that he takes. It’s a very unusual movie and Noah makes a lot of decisions in it that are unconventional and can be confusing or unclear, [things] you have to think about, you have to meet the movie halfway. In a studio movie, it’s all about making sure that you don’t have to think about anything, that you just sit there and are excited the whole time. So I guess those are a couple of the differences I enjoy.

GATW: You just answered my follow up [question], I was going to ask that you have JONAH HEX coming up and if you could talk about indie [films] versus big budget. But I guess you just answered that with big budget you just go in, eat your popcorn and have some fun.

MS: Although JONAH HEX—for a studio movie—it was not a big budget, they were kind of roughing it down there. On JONAH HEX I was only there a couple of days, I just kind of popped in and out and had fun doing a couple of little scenes. But that was a hard shoot, I kind of know Josh [Brolin, star of JONAH HEX] a little bit, and I talked to him about it and he really had to bust his butt on that [movie] to get it done.

GATW: I recently saw [Werner] Herzog’s BAD LIEUTENANT, which is really awesome and you recently did MY SON, MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE with him and it’s garnering a ton of buzz but it’s getting a really limited release. Do you know if it’s going to have a wider release after it’s New York December release?

MS: The film MY SON, MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE has played in, I believe, three film festivals. It has played at Venice, Toronto and the Telluride [film festivals]. And the critical response has been…not entirely unfavorable from everyone but largely somewhat unfavorable from most people so, I think that’s had an effect on it. It’s a very unusual film, but I don’t know what that would surprise anybody. I mean it’s a Werner Herzog film. I’ve seen most of films and most of his films are extremely unconventional. But for some reason, this one is really seeming to irritate some people. I don’t know why, I don’t know what they expected when they walked into the theater. So I guess what they’re trying to do, the strategy right now, is to bring it out in New York and see how the general public feels about it here and then if people are digging it then maybe they’ll try to branch it out. I mean Werner’s films are not blockbusters, they never have been, and usually people discover them a few years after they come out.

GATW: For my last question, in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD you were this awesome, crazy guy. Same with BUG. Do you like playing those types of characters or is it just what you audition for and that’s what you got?

MS: I’d say it’s a mixture of the two. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone but I find that a life can be pretty challenging and difficult sometimes, and that people struggle. So the characters I gravitate towards usually are struggling with a challenge of some sort or another. I think that’s kind of why drama exists in the first place. I don’t know how interesting or compelling people who don’t have any problems are. I mean I guess that would be nice if the world was filled with people who didn’t have any problems but I don’t know interesting it would be. So yeah, I guess I’m drawn to people who are suffering in some way or another.

From the GATW Archives: Interview: HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE writer/director/actor Josh Radnor


Multihyphenate Josh Radnor is a rarity. So many films are made every year, but few that leave a powerful impression on its audience. Radnor’s directorial debut, HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE, is one of those rare few films that left me in awe. I saw HTYMP two years ago when it premiered at Sundance, and I’ve since been waiting for the rest of the world to get a chance to see it, too. Starting this month, that’s about to happen, as HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE is set for a theatrical release.

Last week, I interviewed Radnor over the phone - we dove really deeply into the making of HTYMP and shared our love for John Hughes, among other things. This was, without a doubt, one of the best interviews I’ve done in my GATW career. Radnor is really proud of and passionate about his work (as he should be) and he knows exactly what feelings he wants his audience to take away from this film.

Check out the full interview after the break.

Josh: Hey, you guys wrote such a nice review for us out of Sundance [2010], I really appreciate it. My producer Jesse just kept saying we gotta talk to those guys because they really seem to get the movie.

Chase: Yeah, we all fell in love with it when we saw it at Sundance. It speaks so much to people getting close to hitting 30 who’re still trying to figure out life. You know, when I was 18, I thought I’d be married with kids and a house when I was 28.

Josh: Haha, yeah.

I’m 28 now and I’m not close to any of that, haha.

Yeah, me neither, man, and I’m 36, so I hear ya.

Well, cool, man, let’s go ahead and jump into this because I know you have a busy day. The first thing I want to talk about is Annie and Sam’s friendship. It’s really rare to see a male and female have such a close friendship without any sexual tension. What inspired you and how did you develop that, because you nail it?

Oh, that’s cool, thanks. Well, it’s based on a friend of mine, which probably has something to do with that. One of the things when I was developing the script that I wanted to do was base a character on my friend and I had her blessing to do it. Sam’s not based totally on me, but there is something of the essence of my friendship with this girl that was important for me to have in the script. I think it’s true, in a lot of movies you don’t really see that male and female dynamic; I have just have a lot of friends who are women that I haven’t dated and will never date, probably. If I was going to do an honest portrait of what that time was like for me in New York, that’s an element of it. I just hinted at the fact that there can be crossed wires in those sorts of situations, but it was a scene that got cut. There was a scene that got that with Sam and Annie on the rooftop that was really one of my favorite scenes that just got in the way of the momentum of the story after while; it was a writing problem and not anything else. Annie is just tormented by the situations with these guys and how she can’t make it all work; Sam goes off on how great she is, and she says to him, “If I’m so great how come you never wanted to be with me?” It’s just this kind of awkward moment that was great and it will be on the DVD’s deleted scenes. I did want to address that because I also felt those things can get complicated. When people say that men and women can’t be friends I think that’s nonsense.

Yeah, that’s total bullshit. A lot of my staff are women and we’re just like best friends and family and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s why I wanted to talk to you about that because you rarely find that in movies.

Well, cool, I’m glad you zeroed in on that, because I think it’s an important but unspoken part of the movie. You know on some level the movie is about family, right? It’s about new families developing; Rasheen, Sam, and Mississippi get this kind of weird family going for a few days. There’s communities of people who develop in this cities where you know we’re not in these small villages or tribes anymore, but we do find our tribe, we do find our people, so to speak.

Absolutely. So, HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE is one of those indie dramadies which seems to please different audiences - it’s really a mixed bag of humor and emotion. What were some of your influences in making the film?

What was up for me while I was writing [HTYMP] and getting set to direct was…I love Richard Linklater; you know, DAZED AND CONFUSED. For a while I was very unhealthily obsessed with BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET. I like movies that allow people to talk…find the drama in the talking. I don’t carry a gun and spy on people…some of those movies, while they’re great fun, they don’t feel like my life or anyone I recognize. MAGNOLIA was a really big influence on me when I saw it, the intersecting storylines. I don’t have anything like frogs falling from the sky. He [P.T. Anderson] made me feel in that movie like you can do anything, people can burst into song. It just freed up my imagination as a filmmaker. I recently re-watched THE BREAKFAST CLUB on New Year’s Day with some high school friends, and talk about a movie that holds up. I remembered every frame of it and haven’t seen it in years but John Hughes generally and, that movie in particular, I think I underestimated the effect it had on my consciousness. Not to overstate things, but I think he taught a whole generation of people about empathy in the most basic way. I ended up reading a Vanity Fair piece after his death that really devastated me, I think he was a really special guy - time has been good to him and his movies.

Yeah, absolutely. When he passed, we did a dedication and all of my staff wrote about their favorite Hughes film and why and how it inspired them.

Oh, that’s cool, can I Google that? I’d love to see that.

Yeah, actually if you go to our site, it should be on the left side; there should be abanner for it.


Going back to intertwining stories and MAGNOLIA being an inspiration - all the stories in HTYMP are all equally balanced. Is there any character you feel the film belongs to more or do you want it to all be equally balanced?

The balance was definitely a writing challenge and it was also an editing challenge. About 45-50 shots and edited footage didn’t end up in the final movie…so there was a lot of stuff that happened. When you’re editing a movie you’re essentially rewriting the movie. I once heard this thing a famous costume designer said, she said, “A costume isn’t finished when you’ve put every last thing on it that you can, it’s finished when you take every last thing off it that you can.” That - on some level you’re trying to pair it down to its essence. Sometimes in editing I would have written something that I learned in editing that the actor just gave to me in a look that I didn’t have to say the line of dialogue. And that’s where cinema is different than theatre because you can really get up close and a great film actor, you can tell what they’re thinking…I used to say that Annie was the heart of the film and I still believe that on some level, but also Rasheen is really important to me, but then I go around to every character. The culmination of Charlie and Mary Catherine’s storyline still devastates me when I see it, just because the bravery in how amazing they were in that, Zoey and Pablo. I think on some level Sam #2 (Tony Hale) is the hero of the movie, he’s the most emotionally evolved of all of them on some level; he knows who he is and knows what he wants and how to communicate it without all the veils and deflections. I guess when it comes to the characters I love all my kids equally. (laughs)

Haha, yeah, that’s a great answer. Okay, so going back to what I said earlier about how I thought I’d have it all figured out when I was 28 and I don’t, and you nailed how most people I know my age are currently going through. How much of this was taken from personal experiences in life?

I remember I was the class president of my high school so I gave the graduation speech. And the whole thrust of my graduation speech was, you know, people tell you this is the best time of your life and we should reject that. Even though this was a great place to go to high school it’s like, “remember the zits and not having the date for the Homecoming, remember how difficult it was.” I was 17 when I wrote this and I stand by it on some level, you know, I don’t want the best time of my life to have been in the past. Isn’t the goal to make every time the best time? One of the things I’ve hit on is in my later years (laughs) is kind of shifting focus, it’s a perception shift, not a circumstantial shift. That’s why gratitude became the theme of the  movie, it’s appreciated what’s going on right now. Everything right now is great, everything right now is perfect, everything I need is right here, and if you get there then everything is just great. We’re always trained in America to always be focusing on the future, right? But you’re never going ot get there. Where I am right now, if you told the 16 year old where I’d be, he’d be so psyched, but the me now can find all sorts of reasons to be dissatisfied. It’s just about shifting your perspective on things and I think I used to  share some of Sam restlessness and disatisfaction, but part of the movie in some ways was imposing the older, wiser perspective that I think I now have and am working towards having onto my younger idea of things. And while it’s not autobiographical, a lot of it is thematically true.

Right here is when our interview time was up and Radnor kindly asked if we could have a few more minutes.

Cool, I can give you one more good question - after someone sees the film, what would you like for them to take from it?

Well, that’s really up to them. I think it’s a really interesting question, if people are like, “do you think Sam and Mississippi stay together?,” I think that’s a really great conversation to have. There’s not a coda at the end that shows what happens to them and I kind of want your mind to wonder and wonder. If you’re actually concerned about the characters and where they’re headed, then I’ve done my job. I love movies where I feel altered, somehow, when I leave. I call it the “Post Good Movie Glow,” where you just feel completely different than when you sat down to watch the movie and it’s a particular magic that a good movie can work on you…I don’t think it’s my mission as a filmmaker to teach anyone anything, but if something I drop in a movie gives someone a different perspective on their life and eases things a bit, than that’s all fantastic.


From the GATW Archives: Video Interview: Trevor Moore/Zach Cregger (THE WHITEST KIDS U KNOW)


Interviewed by: James Wallace & Chase Whale
Edited by: Chase Whale
Shot on: Panasonic HVX-200
Song: “White Bitch” by Horsedick.mpeg

From the still image on your left, you know everyone enjoyed doing this interview a little too much. Sit back and watch as we talk about Trevor & Zach’s experience writing/directing their first feature together, the words “fuck, shit, cunt, and dick,” a WHITEST KIDS U KNOW feature film, and a possible spin-off called SLUMLIGHT, a movie about poor Indian vampire children.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Video Interview: Actors John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, and writer/directors Jeremy Konner and Derek Waters (DRUNK HISTORY)


A few days before taking off for Sundance, I received an email letting me know that John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover and the brilliant minds behind the DRUNK HISTORY shorts were available for interviews. So I put in a request not thinking much of it (after getting so many rejection emails, there’s only so much whiskey my liver can take), but a few days later, we were confirmed to interview the crew. This will probably go down in GATW history as one of the most fun interviews we’ve ever done.

It was so cool being able to speak to Reilly (MAGNOLIA is my favorite film) and Glover (who star in DRUNK HISTORY: TESLA AND EDISON), but it was Jeremy Konner and Derek Waters who I was thrilled to grab an interview with. These two boys are the crazy brains behind DRUNK HISTORY. If you don’t know much about the DRUNK HISTORY shorts, YouTube them - you will not be disappointed.

Check out the video interview after the jump. A few things though, it’s very long (clocking in at twenty minutes) and the audio’s pretty irritating. We shot in a hallway at a hotel, so we could only monitor so much background noise. I hope you enjoy watching this interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.

Also, I wanna note that Jeremy and Derek one the Sundance award for Best Short Film. Well deserved!

Interview by: Chase Whale & James Wallace
Edited by: Chase Whale


From the GATW Archives: Fantastic Fest Video Interview: Dolph Lundgren


Last Thursday, Dolph Lundgren came to introduce UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: A NEW BEGINNING, the final secret screening of Fantastic Fest. After the U.S. III Q&A, my good friend Scott E. Weinberg over at Cinematical set me up with an interview with Dolph. Since the first UNIVERSAL SOLDIER played a big part of my childhood, as well as ROCKY IV, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO, and - the best of them yet - the original THE PUNISHER, you could see the childlike excitement glowing all around me. Minutes before Dolph walked into the interviewing room that was covered with white fur on the wall (don’t ask), all I could think about was, “pleeeeeease don’t be a dick, pleeeeeease don’t be a dick, pleeeeease don’t be a dick!” I accepted the fact a long time ago that Santa Claus wasn’t real, but I did not wanted my movie childhood memories shattered. They weren’t - Dolph is one badass motherfucker!

Check out my video interview with Dolph (after the jump!), as we discuss what it was like to put back on Sergeant Andrew Scott’s boots after almost two decades, and what we’re in for with UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: A NEW BEGINNING.


From the GATW Archives: Video Interview: IT MIGHT GET LOUD director Davis Guggenheim


You may know who Davis Guggenhiem is. If you’re big into documentaries, than you’ve most-likely seen his Academy Award-winning film AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, which starred former Vice President Al Gore, who campaigned to spread knowledge about the issue of global warming.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Davis to talk about his new kick-ass rockumentary, IT MIGHT GET LOUD. The documentary focuses on the careers of three of the greatest live guitar players: Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, U2’s The Edge, and The White Stripes’ Jack White.

The interview runs a little long, clocking in at almost eleven minutes. Since Davis’ answers to my questions were so detailed and interesting, I didn’t want to cut anything out! I really enjoy doing interviews like this, because you can tell in his responses how much passion he put into this film. Enjoy!


From the GATW Archives: Video Interview: EXTRACT writer/director Mike Judge


I remember first attempting to watch Mike Judge’s BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD when I was in grammar school, but of course the ‘rents shot that down real fast within a minute of airtime. Mike has that humor you don’t want your kids seeing, but boy do you sure appreciate it when you’ve hit puberty.

Last week I sat with Mr. Judge to talk about his new film, EXTRACT. It’s been ten years since he set foot into the work force, and now he’s back, giving us just as many laughs as before. Check out the interview below, where we talk about his inspiration behind EXTRACT and why he loves Texas so much.

I’ve made two version of the interview - a short one with music for all the short attention span viewers out there like myself, and a long one, in which Mike talks about what he’s going to be working on next. Enjoy!