Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q: What was it about Nicholas Shakespeares story that
made you finally decide to direct?
JM: I had been scheduled to direct or develop several things
and they fell apart, for one reason or another. We had our production
company and I had read an article in the Daily Telegraph about
Nicolass book and an article in Granta years ago and I had
travelled in Peru in the 1980s and it was somehow a story I was
very taken with. I loved the tone of it and the characters and
really loved the character of Rejas and of the dance instructor
and, in a way, Rejass wife. Thats how I started.
Q: What were the challenges you faced in bringing this story
to the screen?
JM: We were able to secure the rights and I wanted Nicolas to
work on the screenplay with me. That went fine and we kept working,
working, working. Then you have to have an actor who will interest
the people who fund movies and no one was interested in funding
this movie because it took place in a far off land, because who
cares about terrorism? Its very political, supposedly, although
that really isnt the case.
And those people who did find the story interesting didnt
know who any of these actors were and they would do it if I had
other actors that they did know. That didnt interest me.
I wanted the actors that I wanted because when you direct a movie,
why do something you dont want to do?
As an actor you are constantly doing things that somebody else
wants you to do, that you may or may not agree with. But thats
the job definition and, generally, I do it.
But when you direct, then its really up to you and you do
what you want to do - and that can be right or wrong, good or
bad, brilliant or abysmal or anything in-between. But it should
be what you want to do and I saw this movie very specifically
as a small budget, with mostly Latin actors who speak English
as a second language. That was a mandatory, obligatory part of
the vision I had for it.
Q: What about the research?
JM: I read a lot. I also didnt just want to do the story
of The Shining Path, which is why it just says Latin America
- the recent past.
Q: It seems important to you to handle the political part of
the story in a very delicate manner?
JM: Yes, because usually when politics are handled in the cinema,
and quite often in journalism, it doesnt strike me as particularly
well informed. Its just people shooting off their mouths.
This particular policeman was someone quite special because not
only did he capture Guzman, he also captured Montesinos, who we
call Calderon, who now lives in a jail next door to Guzman. But
its not a black and white politic of hero and villain.
Q: Do you think it fair to regard Rejas as a hero?
JM: A hero with the simple definition of human - I mean a human
engaged in a struggle in a film that is essentially about corruption
and the various forms of corruption, whether they be political,
financial, ideological or emotional. To me, I see it much more
as a film like High Noon than a European art film. Thats
how I look at it. Its a very strong story and you want to
find out what happens next.
Q: The complex relationship between Rejas and the three women
in his life - his wife, daughter and the dance teacher - seems
important for you to investigate in this film?
JM: I think its something that most people have lived, so
they understand that sort of occurrence passing through ones
Its something Im not very judgmental about, at all.
That happens. When it happens, I think it brings to bear a number
of contradictory sentiments, emotions and life choices. And it
can destroy as much as it can create.
So, its very complicated. In this story, Rejas married someone
and fell in love with someone who probably he doesnt have
a remarkable number of similarities with, but who he is amused
by and gets along with and has a love for.
He then is attracted to somebody who probably does have a lot
of similarities with him. I always mistrust when things dont
have the requisite complication. Thats not to be pretentious,
its because, in my experience, things are normally more
complicated than we realise or they are purported to be, or we
could possibly know.
Q: Was Javier Bardem always your first choice for Rejas?
JM: I cast Javier before he had even met Julian Schnabel for Before
Night Falls. It was six years ago. He was originally my first
choice for Juan Diego Bottos role, because he was so young
The people who were then funding the film - but not funding it,
as it turned out - wanted a known actor, so we talked to a couple
of other people. One of whom, Daniel Day Lewis, responded and
wrote a lovely letter and was very nice about it, but didnt
want to do it. The other we never heard back from.
But when I met with Javier, he expressed an interest in playing
Rejas. As I explored his work, I thought his idea was much better
Mercifully, the film was cancelled just before we were to start
shooting, which meant Javier was five years older and had done
Julians wonderful film in English by this time and his English
had improved markedly and he had studied very hard.
He was able to communicate maturity even though he was still young,
that helped us.
Q: What would you hope audiences would take from seeing The
JM: That it is a very well structured, ambitious, challenging
film that also is very involving. I think it shows that there
is an audience for things that are not so knee-jerk, retarded,
stuffed down our throats.
There is an audience for something reflective and contemplative.
Provided that the things that are reflective or contemplative
compel us. People dont like to be bored and I dont
think there is anything boring in this movie.
They dont like to be bored and I agree with them. But if
you have pretentions to want to do a film that is reflective,
or contemplative or thoughtful, then your duty to compel people
to watch it is multiplied because they are giving you that possibility
but you have to give them something back. And I think this film
does that - people dont leave the theatre and say, boy,
that was obscure.