Compiled by Jack Foley
Q. Your character is one of the most honest and cynical characters
in the film, which is different from any other character that
you've played. Is that right?
A. Well, I think it's also in keeping with the morally ambiguous
and sort of paracidic world in which he works. The world of a
Wall Street hustler is definitely an emotionally guarded one,
because constantly, his existence feels threatened.
But yeah, it's very different from anything that I have ever played
before and it was definitely a challenge.
Aren't Edward and Barry in the kind of position where they
can actually do something by not making those [commercial] kind
of films and sort of upping the ante, and working on projects
which have more value...
Barry Pepper: Totally, completely, and I think it definitely
limits your career. I've had the opporunity to take part in movies
that have gone on to become huge commercial successes, which probably
would have advanced my career and paid off my mortgage, and taken
care of many of the other comforts that I'm not enjoying now.
But I can't sleep at night with those kind of decisions and I
have to find stories, like this, that really speak to my moral
and spiritual foundation, and that I feel strongly about.
You want to entertain, and when you're dealing with a much more
sophisticated audience these days, that do invest themselves in
answering those questions that filmmakers like Spike pose, it's
much more entertaining for me, and for audiences, to make those
decisions based on the quality of the story.
Edward Norton: Sometimes I feel like I'm a little more
sanguin sometimes, about the state of things. Spike and I talked
about this some time ago.
I don't have expectations that most things will be good. Certainly,
I don't have expectations that most things will be great. But
over time, as long as people have been making commercial cinema,
probably the same percentages of totally terrible/mediocre/middle
of the road/ok and great films have been made, I don't think the
balances of perfection and ugliness change all that much.
There is a business, and there are people who are involved in
the business of financing films and distributing them, and trying
to make a profit out of them; I don't particularly begrudge people
trying to do their best to achieve that. I think they end up making
a lot of stuff that is totally banal or boring, but I'm not engaged
in that, so I don't really care, as long as it's not preventing
what I would call the kind of cinema that I care about from reaching
But I don't feel that this is happening. I think that, in many
ways, you hear people romanticising the late Sixties and early
Seventies, but I think... you know, I've never made an independent
film, even though people call me an independent actor.
I've never been in a film that wasn't financed by a studio. American
History X, Fight Club and this film, and many others that I've
done that are sort of off-centre, or personal film-making, but
all have been financed by studios.
I haven't had the experience that you can't get those kind of
films done. And I'm encouraged by a new wave of voices out there,
the Paul Thomas Andersons, the Finchers, Spike's been around longer,
but Alexander Payne, the Wachowski brothers... to me, my generation
is arriving in a way that, to me, is very exciting.
I think that there is as exciting a wave of new film-makers arriving
than there has been for quite a while, and I think that even within
the context of the bigger and bigger conglomerates mode of doing
business, I also think there is an expansion of the different
ways you can get a film made.
There are more people looking for content, and I look at it as
a very fertile time. It can be frustrating at times, that we can't
get more money, sometimes, to do a certain kind of film, but I
try to remember that you're not entitled to $50m to make a film,
and you've got to be willing to work within the parameters that
you can create and that's what being a part of it, on some level,
is really what it's about.
It's not about expectation of huge amounts of money, so there
are things that are sometimes discouraging; it's discouraging
to see work that I think is exciting left out of the mainstream
conversation, but on the whole I feel optimistic.
I mean, the ease with which we put this film together was exciting,
because it spoke to the passion of all the people involved, and
to the strength of the material.
And a big studio like Disney recognised those elements in this
film, so it's hard to be cynical when you can create these kinds
SPIKE LEE Q&A
Why this particular script? This is not a script that you
wrote. So why this one?
A: Well, David Benioff is a fine young writer. I did
not know of the novel when it was published, but we shared a
lot of views... and also, Mr Norton and I had been talking about
working together for quite a while, so it all just lined up.
Q. After September 11, a lot of American filmmakers went
out of their way to edit the Twin Towers out of their movies,
yet this is the first film to actually embrace the mood of America
after September 11. Obviously, this was a conscious decision
on your part, and I was just wondering why....
A: Other film-makers and studios have to do what they
feel is best for their film. But, number one, we never saw it
as a race, you know, to be the first. Whether we were the first
or the 100th, it wasn't going to change our feeling about including
this different world.
In America, we are very privileged. Not only do we have this
so-called, high standard of living, but we have not really felt
terrorism, the way the rest of the world has.
I mean, we had the first bombing of the World Trade Center,
and everyone thought that was like a freak of nature; and then
we had the Oklahoma Bombing... But what happened on September
11 really traumatised Americans and we're still feeling the
effects, because we are living in a much different world now,
where the threat of terrorism is an everyday occurrence.
And so, we wanted to reflect this different world in the film.
What is the most encouraging and discouraging thing about
filmmaking in Hollywood today?
A. Well, I think the most discouraging thing about Hollywood
is that if you're trying to say something different and unique,
it's much harder. I mean, this past year, Hollywood made more
money than ever before. And so, they're going to do more of
the same. They're going to make more prequels, more sequels,
although I'm going to leave the two Matrix films out of that,
because I like them [laughs]...
It's the dumbing down theory, where everything is the lowest
common denominator. Sometimes I just scratch me head and say,
'what has happened?'
But my love of cinema is getting stronger every day. You just
got to keep fighting, you know.
I'm gonna take a liberty and speak for Edward and Barry and
say that we love what we're doing. And we make a lot of money
doing what we're doing. And 99% of people in the world go to
their graves having slaved at a job they hate all their life.
So we're very blessed, because we all love cinema, and we're
doing it. And I say my prayers and blessings every night, cos
it didn't have to be like this.
Spike, the Academy has overlooked you yet again. A) Does
it bother you, and B) do you think there will ever be a point
when they recognise you?
Spike Lee: Well, you hear many stories, one of them being
that Disney wanted to make a film that could get a nomination.
If you make that decision, it then means that you're going to
be putting the film in a very crowded season - the pre-Christmas
Oscar push market. And so, if you do that, it means that you
have to be willing to get down and dirty with the Miramaxes
of the world. But if that's what you want, then you have to
The days when you could just send a DVD over to the judges,
and stick a couple of adverts in the trades, are over. I mean,
you've got to give Mr Weinstein his dues, he does what it takes,
you know, and just look at the record books, look at the nominations
that Miramax has got. He changed the game, and if you don't
want to play like him, then you're not going to be in a strong
Q. Do you care?
Spike Lee: Not really.