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Gambit - Cameron Diaz and Michael Hoffman interview

Gambit

Interview by Rob Carnevale

CAMERON Diaz joins director Michael Hoffman to talk about the making of Gambit during the UK press conference for the film…

Q. What masterpiece would you most like to steal?
Michael Hoffman: I would stay in Belgium, I think with Alan [Rickman], and steal the Ghent Altarpiece.

Cameron Diaz: I don’t know if you’d consider it a masterpiece of what you’re speaking of, but I would take any Basquiat I could get my hands on.

Q. Michael, how much access did you get to the art work?
Michael Hoffman: We could have had access to their art work, but it wasn’t the art work that we needed access to. His collection is an impressionist collection and that’s not really what’s in the house. But the house itself, it was a structural thing about what was going to work for the heist and the entrance of the lion. We were going to shoot in Syon House and we realised after we met the lion that the lion would basically come in and be standing right next to Colin and we realised we needed a much bigger space to do it. So we started looking, and that led us to Compton Verney, which is a fantastic place. Wonderful people.

Q. And how was filming with the lion?
Michael Hoffman: I did ask the wrangler, I said: “Is Major tame?” And he said: “He’s pretty tame for a lion.” That’s not the best news [laughs]. But there was a strange thing that happened that the wrangler couldn’t understand. Colin is standing in front of this copy of a Rousseau painting with a lion eating somebody, and this lion got fascinated by the painting. I mean, seriously fascinated by the painting. It was looking at Colin and then would look back…. I think it was the art, but whatever it was Steve the [wrangler] guy came to us and said: “I don’t know that I have complete control of this cat right now!” It was like five feet from Colin, so I thought maybe we should take him back.

Q. Cameron, did you get into the rodeo world and did you hang out there at all? Did you know that world at all? And being based on a Coen Brothers script did it feel like you were in that universe a bit?
Cameron Diaz: Definitely, the Coen universe was very prevalent. We stepped right into it, the story was… the words, the rhythm, the broadness, the farce. All of it was very much their signature. So, it was a lot of fun because you knew you could take those characters and make them broad, make them big. And the fact that they’re so… for PJ being who she was, being American, from Texas, already a big personality, and her being dropped into this world of a very different culture. She’s so open and Harry Dean is so closed up and repressed, you know, they’re as opposite as you can get.

And as far as the Texas of it all, I did go down to Texas and I did do a little research into small towns down there just because I haven’t been really in any real small towns in Texas. So, I went down and I looked around, and I found a bunch of the wardrobe. I found my hat, everybody has to have their own hat… I found my boots, and I found my buckle and my jeans and brought them back here. I did some training with the roping for the calf – of course, I didn’t get to film it! But nonetheless I know how to throw a rope.

But it was a lot of fun, it’s such a fun, spirited world and it is very Americana. It is an essential part of the American experience… and it’s alive and well and thriving in Texas.

Q. Michael, what was the appeal of this film for you because it’s completely different from your other movies, which tend to have a certain melancholy?
Michael Hoffman: I think I wanted to make another comedy. I made a comedy called Soap Dish a lot of years ago, that didn’t have too much melancholy in it I don’t think. So, I’ve always been interested in directing comedy in the theatre and interested in the technical challenge of it, when I used to act as well.

I think that’s what I was drawn to and I was also interested in… if there was a melancholy note to be struck, it’s just in Harry Dean and his struggle to maintain his dignity. I like that about the story a lot, and I liked the fact that I think we all would like to imagine ourselves to be the perfect criminal and we find out going through life that we really aren’t the perfect criminal. And realise that in our desire to be the perfect criminal, we put ourselves in a place where we’re pretty much alone. It is being able to admit to himself that he’s not going to be exactly who he wants to be, and somehow through his connection to PJ finding a way to be more who he wants to be. You always have to find some thread, or some human connection, and that was where I found it.

Read our review of Gambit

Read our interview with Alan Rickman and Sir Tom Courtenay