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Deja Vu - Tony Scott & Jerry Bruckheimer interview

Tony Scott, director of Deja Vu

Interview by Rob Carnevale

TONY Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer talk about the experience and challenge of filming time-travelling thriller Deja Vu, starring Denzel Washington…

Q. How did the people of New Orleans welcome you so soon after Hurricane Katrina?
Jerry Bruckheimer: It was fantastic. A lot of people hadn’t worked since Katrina and we didn’t get there until February. So they were very grateful and gracious to us because we gave them a livelihood. We also proved that a big film could be made in New Orleans even after the tragedy of Katrina.

I really have to give credit to Tony Scott and Denzel Washington. Denzel pushed the movie back in order to make it possible. He has a great love for the people of New Orleans and made sure that the movie did go back there. And Tony fell in love with the city itself. It’s such a beautiful city – more like a European city than an American city because of the architecture. So I think we went back there for all the right reasons.

Q. Was the blowing up of the ferry that opens the movie one of the biggest and most complex sequences in the film?
Tony Scott: Actually, the car chase was more complex. I’ve done many car chases but in the end, what’s really important in terms of action sequences is what’s on the page. It’s the concept more than how good a shooter you are and I think one of the most refreshingly different scenes in the movie was the car chase because it was taking place in the present as well as four days in the past. Denzel was looking through this eye piece seeing this car at night in the rain four days in the past bound with the present where he was racing against commuter traffic in the morning.

Q. So the ferry was a doddle after that?
Tony Scott: I’m afraid I have to give more credit to the special effects guys because what you do as a director is storyboard it and give it to those guys and you talk it through. They then ask if we want more smoke, more fire, and what’s the shape of it? Then you leave it to them and they spend the next six weeks worrying about it. On the morning of the shoot you just place your cameras. I think conceptually that was good because it came right at the beginning of the movie. I’m sure the audience was waiting for it but you set them up in a way by showing the kids and the ferry and making it a feelgood experience before “bang” it happens.

Q. Did you spend a lot of time with the script writers working out the string theory behind the time travelling concept?
Tony Scott: You know, I spent a lot of time fighting with the writers because my goal was to make it science fact not science fiction. I’m not a big string theorist. I didn’t know anything really about this world. But I love the fact that I get paid to educate myself, entertain myself and test the world of Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene, who was our technical adviser. He’s the American Stephen Hawking and he laid hands on the script and said: “This is about as close as you can get in terms of if we believe we can go back in time, then this theory is about as good as it gets.”

Q. Can you tell us a little bit more about the logistics of the ferry explosion?
Tony Scott: Well, it was funny because even though it was advertised in New Orleans – which is a relatively small city – that we were going to do this explosion and it was going to be a big one, I think they had 900 911 calls to the police from people saying there’d been a terrorist attack on the ferry. It’s amazing how people don’t pay any attention. The explosion rocked the city, it really did. We were all over the press all the time and everyone was ringing saying: “There’s been a terrorist attack.”

But as I previously said, it’s more down to the special effects guys than to me. It’s all over in a heart beat. You do these huge stunts but it’s sort of anti-climactic when you do them because it’s all over in a split second and it’s gone. You’re just waiting to see that the ferry didn’t sink.

Q. A lot of great writers have been fascinated by the concept of time travel, etc. Why is the public so interested in that?
Tony Scott: Well, I hope they are [laughs] because this movie is not dedicated to HG Wells or to time travel. My goal was to make it science fact, not science fiction. So I don’t know, maybe one day we can go back in time. Who would have said at the turn of the last century that if you hit a button you could see people walking around in Iraq, or cellphones? All this technology just keeps overtaking us.

Enemy Of The State was actually a semi-prediction of Google. I’d love to claim responsibility but it was actually the NSA that gave them that idea. Now Google Earth you can tap in and divein your living room and watch your wife having it off with the guy next door. [Laughs]

Q. Do you think the title of the movie is misleading given that it’s more about time travel than deja vu?
Tony Scott: No. I always pick up my dictionary when I find a word that I don’t quite understand. If you ask anybody what their interpretation of deja vu is, everyone has a different opinion. So I picked up the Oxford English Dictionary at home in LA and looked it up. It said: “An uncomfortable feeling of a time or place that you’ve experienced in the past.”

So that word “uncomfortable” was my goal and each day I’d have that on the top of my storyboard and in the back of my head. I was always looking for that moment in time when I could capture this uncomfortable, other worldly feeling that there was something wrong in his [Denzel’s character’s] life in the movie. Obviously the classic example is when he first goes into her apartment at the beginning and the clues start to manifest themselves.

Q. How close are we to the type of surveillance we see in the film?
Tony Scott: That was really a cover story that we devised. We wanted a really plausible cover story cover story for when Denzel goes in there and says: “What is all of this?” That was my push and pull to try and get the writers to build towards science fact and not science fiction.

Jerry Bruckheimer: I read a piece in the New York Times about a month ago that said the Americans are launching satellites that have photo imaging. So, that’s all they said in the piece. They can read a licence plate and we all know they can do that – that’s what they’re telling you, but they don’t really show you all the stuff they can do. It’s pretty far out there what they’re doing.

Read our review of Deja Vu