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Criminal - Gregory Jacobs Q&A



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 in.

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 this film?
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.

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