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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Stephen Daldry interview (exclusive)

Compiled by Jack Foley

STPEHEN Daldry talks about some of the challenges he faced in bringing the adaptation of 9/11 novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close to the big screen and why he wanted to tackle such powerful and traumatic material.

He also talks about working with some of his cast, including young actor Thomas Horn, and shooting on location in New York.

Q. Did you face any particular challenges with the adaptation of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close from book to film?
Stephen Daldry: I think all adaptations of books have their own challenges. Jonathan’s incredibly imaginative book, it’s a series of choices. You have to make choices about what you’re going to focus on and what story you’re telling, and include Jonathan in all those choices, and make sure he’s okay about it, which he was. Jonathan was a fantastic partner to myself and to Eric Roth all the way through the process actually. But in the end, it’s a strange sort of mash-up, if you like, of the original author, then the screenplay author and then the director, and you make something unique and something different from all three minds.

Q. What prompted you to want to tackle a movie about such a powerful and traumatic subject?
Stephen Daldry: I was in London on 9/11 with the producer of this film, Scott Rudin. We were actually finishing The Hours at that time, and both of us shared those days in the aftermath together. And I think both of us went through a pretty traumatic time in London, as many people did. And trying to get back to New York, which we eventually did together. And I suppose part of the reason for doing the film was because we shared those days together. I think that everybody has their own 9/11 story. This is made up, really, from an amalgamation of things that were in the novel that Jonathan wrote, and things that I’d heard about and wanted to talk about about that terrible day.

Q. How hard was the search for a young actor to play Oskar, and how did you decide Thomas Horn was the best choice?
Stephen Daldry: We auditioned extensively. Many thousands of kids all across America, and indeed in Europe. In England as well. And we were very aware of the particular challenges this part would demand. The character has all sorts of special needs. Anxieties, phobias that are relieved by his father, and then, when his father dies, are exposed more acutely. And we needed a very fiercely intelligent child, but a child with a huge emotional range, and we found Thomas. I didn’t actually, my producer remembered him on Kids’ Jeopardy. He won a TV show in America called Kids’ Jeopardy. And we auditioned him and Thomas showed all the promise that he eventually did come to realise on-screen. I think he gives one of the greatest screen performances by a young actor, ever.

Q. What was it like to shoot in so many different areas of New York?
Stephen Daldry: We did film all over the different five boroughs. We had a particular fond affection, I think all of us, to the Rockaways down there in Queens. That’s the houses on stilts where they go, because it’s such an unusual and fascinating area of Queens. But we shot everywhere. We had stylists underneath the elevator train there. I remember that day just because nobody could hear. The noise was so intense. So nobody could speak to anybody. Max couldn’t hear anything. Thomas couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t hear anything. And just trying to make up these scenes, or get these scenes done. That was a particularly stressful event. But it’s been a great discovery going around the city. And I am an expert on Central Park. I can actually do the best tour now of Central Park you could every possibly have.

Read our review of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close