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Derailed - Mikael Håfström interview

Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston in Derailed

Interview by Rob Carnevale

Q. Was it because of the tremendous success of Evil that you were offered a film like this?
A. Yeah. Evil was shown in Toronto which is, of course, the place where a lot of Hollywood people go. They saw it and liked it, so I started getting scripts. One of them was Derailed, which I read and liked.

Q. What appealed to you about it?
A. When I first started out being a director on Swedish TV I made thrillers and I made quite a few. Then I went on to do different kinds of things – Evil is a boarding school drama. So when I read Derailed I found the story had the sort of set-up that I like, it was a thriller and I thought it would be fun to do a thriller again and revisit that genre.

Q. Were you up on the hip-hop scene when it came to casting RZA and Xzibit?
A. Well Sweden is very big on music, as you know, it is the third biggest exporter of music in the world after America and England despite being such a small country. So yeah.
I met RZA with Clive before we even started to talk about casting the support in Los Angeles. I got a phone call from him first when I was in London. He told me that he really wanted to do this part and was flying to London the next day on his own expense to read for me. He came and did a fantastic reading.
Both these guys are very sincere about their acting. It’s not like they are two music guys who are doing some acting as a hobby. RZA had the bigger part of the two and he took it very, very seriously. If he wants, he has a good career in front of him.

Q. Have you ever been on the wrong end of a swindle or scam?
A. Everytime I meet a woman! [Laughs] This is a very personal film for me. But on a more serious note, this is a story about a guy who makes a lot of bad decisions. But we talked a lot about this and would say ‘this is ridiculous, why would he [Charles] do that?’ But then again, what I would have done, or you have done in that situation, we don’t know. He’s panicking and he’s doing what he thinks is right for the moment. It’s not but you can at least understand why he’s doing these things when he’s doing them. But none of us can honestly say how we would deal with that type of situation.

Q. Did Jennifer’s TV success in Friends in any way hinder people’s acceptance of her in a more dramatic role such as this?
A. It’s very hard to say in general. In the US, there’s a lot of people who love and adore her, but equally there are probably those that don’t like her. So did it get in the way? I don’t know. For some, maybe. For most people, I don’t think so. When you sit there and watch the film, hopefully you’re too much into the plot to think about it. But you could say the same thing about a lot of actors and actresses who have given strong performances in TV and film. When I see them, I don’t think about what they’ve done before.

Q. Did you get a sense that she enjoyed the different discipline?
A. Absolutely. And she should do different things because she’s a very versatile actress. Film history is full of great comedians that have moved into dramatic roles and do it very well. As an actress, her sense of timing is excellent so for a director she is a pleasure to work with and I think we’ll see her in mor different roles in the future.

Q. Tom Conti has a small but important role. What did you see in him?
A. I’ve always liked him. But he plays Clive’s character’s boss and it should be a part that audiences immediately like and feel that he’s basically a good guy.