Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q: How many times did you see the original movie on which
Criminal is based, Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens)?
A: Once or twice. But I loved it and that's why I wanted
to take a crack at it. I had been thinking about doing a movie
in which L.A. was kind of a character in a film…and I'd
always been a fan of con, caper pictures and this seemed like
an opportunity to marry the two things that I was really interested
Q: Why did it take so long from being a first assistant
director (AD) to finally getting your own directing project?
A: I was making films as an 11-year-old, you know, borrowing
my dad's super 8 camera and taking classes. Then when I was going
to college, I took a semester off to work on this film for John
Sayles who was an idol of mine. I was a production assistant and
I saw the woman who was the first AD.
I kept thinking that she gets to be next to the director all the
time and to help make decisions and if I'm not going to direct
right away, that looks like a good job to do.
Then I became a first AD and really loved it. I felt like I went
to graduate film school for a decade working with all these people
who I really admired. They were great mentors.
Honestly, I never would have been mature enough to direct a movie
in my early 20s. People like Steven Soderbergh or Paul Thomas
Anderson have that maturity at a younger age that I'm not sure
I had. But I felt like I could pull it off now and I hope I did.
Q: Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney are also producers
of this movie. How involved did they get when you were directing
A: They were the perfect producers. They helped me by
supporting my decision when I said, 'this is what I want to do
and this is how I want to do it'.
They were fantastic at helping me get financing and getting it
green lit because obviously, having their names attached meant
a lot. But they also trusted me enough to just go off and make
the movie. I screened it for them during editing and they gave
me their notes, so they were perfect producers in that way.
Q: What about Maggie?
A: Maggie, the same. She was the first choice once I
knew that John was willing to do the movie and once Diego agreed
to do the movie.
Q: What is the value of doing a re-make of a film?
A: I really love the original and I don't really have
a problem with re-makes in general.
On Broadway, there's a whole category called revival where people
put on the same play over and over. I wanted to do it because
I felt like I could take this great piece and kind of make it
my own, bring my own ideas and sort of bring LA into this story.
I had the translation of Nine Queens when I was writing the script
so there was stuff I worked off of and I watched the movie a few
times, but I knew, visually, I wanted it to be different because
I wanted to stylize it more after an American film from the '70s.
I wanted it to be more Midnight Cowboy and French Connection,
with long lenses and have this naturalistic feel.
I had enough pressure on myself in that this was my first film
as a director so I didn't put on the added pressure that this
is a re-make. I think that my AD background helped me get through
it because we had a really short schedule.
Q: Can you talk about casting this film?
A: I really had John and Diego in mind when I was writing
it. I felt that John was an incredible actor who has this huge
body of work, but I'd never seen him do anything quite like this.
He was sort of my one and only choice, so I was thrilled that
he agreed to do it.
I cast Diego because I wanted to make LA as real as I felt I could
with its issues of race and class and the stratification of the
city into the movie, so I wanted to make the casting as multi-cultural
as I could because I feel like that's LA in the 21st century.
It's this dysfunctional, multicultural place so I really wanted
the younger guy to be Latino and I'm a huge fan of Diego’s,
so I felt he was perfect.
Q: Why do you like Nine Queens that much?
A: I think it's a great con movie. The script is great
and the performances are great. I put it right up there with a
lot of great classic con movies.
Q: You’ve worked with such directors as Steven Soderbergh
and Richard Linklater. Can you tell us what you’ve taken
from them and the other directors you’ve worked with?
A: It's funny, I can't think specifically what I've taken
from them but I think it's lots of different things from each
of the people I've worked with over the years. I just tried to
absorb as much as I could and try to cherry pick those things
depending on the situations. The most obvious would be to always
strive for something better. I mean, the really smart guys like
Steven and Richard are inspirational in the fact that they're
always trying to do good work.