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Deadfall – Stefan Ruzowitzky interview (exclusive)

Deadfall, Stefan Ruzowitzky

Interview by Rob Carnevale

OSCAR winning director Stefan Ruzowitzky talks about working with Eric Bana and snow on new thriller Deadfall and why he was drawn to the film because it had many layers more than just a brainless action piece.

He also talks about life since he won his Academy Award for The Counterfeiters and why he’s returning to the subject of The Holocaust for his next film.

Q. Eric Bana is very choosy about roles but once he read Zack Dean’s script he says he was hooked. Was that the same for you?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: Yes, I loved this mix of having a no-nonsense thriller with chase sequences, violence, fighting and all that stuff, but on top of that you have also some intriguing character story elements that hold it up and the concept of dysfunctional families. This is what I love when I’m going to the movies as well. It’s not a brainless action blockbuster.

Q. Did you work on the script at all with Eric and the other cast members?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: Yes, I always appreciate it when actors come up with additional ideas to make the characters more complex and not too one dimensional. And all of them brought with them a lot of ideas and stuff that we were able to bring into the movie.

Q. How was actually working with Eric Bana and such a terrific ensemble cast [Charlie Hunnam, Olivia Wilde, Kris Kristoffersen, Sissy Spacek, etc]?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: Eric was great. I must admit I was a little scared about initially working with him because we have some really big stars in this big showdown sequence, where all these stars and big egos are in one room [laughs]. Something like that might turn into a disaster! But as a matter of fact, it was the opposite. All of them were competing but being professional and nice and just professional actors. It was really a lot of fun and a great experience. And I think they enjoyed being in each other’s company.

Q. How technically challenging was working in the snow?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: The snow was one of more unpleasant aspects of this movie because shooting with snow is always a drag. We had a snow storm, so we had wind machines and they are incredibly noisy, and there’s artificial snow that we had to use, which for biological reasons was based on yeast. But this sort of yeast stuff glues to everything, so it was horrible. After some time, the whole set was just really sticky. It was as though it had glue all over it. We could hardly move, I couldn’t talk to the actors. So, this was a little but unpleasant. As far as I remember, there was one day when it actually was snowing in reality for a scene where it was supposed to snow as well. But that was, of course, an exception [laughs].

Q. When it comes to the violence, it’s very hard-hitting. Was that a conscious choice to show violence for what it really is?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: Yes, of course. As I said, it’s supposed to be a no-nonsense thriller. This is not supposed to be the art-house version of a genre movie. I wanted this to feel realistic.

Q. There are a lot of desperate people in the film. What do you think it has to say about humanity?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: It’s true, there are a lot of desperate people but it’s also I think a lot about humanity. I can remember Sissy Spacek saying the reason why she was in the movie was because of its humanity. It tackles the problems of being a working family. I think one of my favourite scenes, and I know it’s Sissy’s, is when the father and son sort of reunite but they can only reunite at gunpoint because there’s a bad guy at the table who forces them to come back together again. I think there are some interesting concepts at play throughout.

Q. Going back a little further in your career, how much did your Oscar win for The Counterfeiters [as Best Foreign Language Picture] change things for you?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: It meant people become aware of you. At the end of the day, an award is a marketing tool for both the movie itself and for the people involved in it. So, once you have an award people get aware of it and say: “Well, that movie won and maybe the guy who did it is interesting as well.” So, it helps in that respect. But as we all know that’s only the beginning of the real work [laughs]. People think that once you have an Oscar you can do whatever you like but soon enough you find out that in Hollywood there are a lot of people who have won Oscars, who have made some pretty good and successful movies, so then you have to compete with all of those! So, it’s making things easier but that doesn’t mean that it’s getting easy.

Q. You’re returning to the subject of The Holocaust with your next film, Das Bose. What draws you to that subject?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: Yes, it’s going to be called The Ultimate Bad. It hasn’t opened yet. But I think it’s super interesting and it’s one of the reasons why I‘m so interested in The Holocaust, because of the psychological aspect of it. Why did the perpetrators do those things? They were normal, decent people and being Austrian myself, my grandparents… some of them had been party members. So, you ask yourself why did they do it? So, this is an attempt to find some psychological reasons why people do the horrible things they did during the Second World War.

Q. And are you working with Alec Baldwin next on the thriller, Caught Stealing?
Stefan Ruzowitzky: Well, you always have a couple of projects in the works and sometimes someone makes a press statement that suggests it’s happening. But that doesn’t mean this is going to be the one that’s most likely to go into production. We’re still working on the script and we’re trying to get the money, so there’s nothing guaranteed yet.

Read our review of Deadfall