PHONE Booth director, Joel Schumacher, discusses his relationship
with star, Colin Farrell and the making of the movie...
Q How was working with Colin Farrell again?
A Just great, as always. We're proud of our little Irish lad.
He's making more money than I am (laughs).
Q You obviously know him very well now. What is it that you
like about his work?
A I think I know him personally as well as anyone. He's a
really wonderful guy. And we've really been in the trenches together
because the two films we've done were ball busters, I mean in
Tigerland we did the whole
film in 28 days; there was no make up, no hairdresser, no stunt
doubles we shot it in 16 mm hand-held and they are doing it.
I mean, we were in the swamps and this hell-hole of Florida and
the toughest conditions you could be in.
And it was the same with Phone Booth. The Phone Booth section
is 10 days.
We shot the Times Square section first, which is half a day really.
And we had to move to Los Angeles because it had gotten so cold.
We were at the London Film Festival with Tigerland and that's
at the end of November and went back to start Phone Booth.
By the time we got to New York it was freezing cold and I didn't
want to do the movie with people all bundled up in coats, and
so that first day of shooting, everyone was freezing; all the
extras, everyone, they were good sports about it, but we could
never have shot for another 10 days like that.
Q why Colin? What do you like about him on a personal and
A Well, personally. You can't really hire an actor personally
because some people with enormous gifts are jerks, but you still
have to work with the right person for the part.
Colin is an amazing young man because he has a kind heart, he
is what you would call a good lad.
He is kind to his family, sensitive to others, very kind. He's
got a good heart and soul. As an actor, I think he is limitless.
Q That's a big compliment...
A Well, there aren't too many people that can walk
into a phone booth for 10 days straight and do 12, 14 pages of
dialogue a day, walk in that phone booth as one character and
come out a very different person, at his age.
With no time and do a south Bronx accent, no bullshit, just go
and do it. We got there at six, we started shooting at seven,
we did French hours, where you don't break for lunch, you just
pass the food around, because we had to stop shooting at four
because we lost the
light, so you know that's tough.
He's in every second, he's never off, even when we cut away to
other people, we still have a camera on him.
Q Do you think success, stardom, call it what you want, will
A It would have already. The seeds are there. You always can
tell in the beginning. You know, when I was doing costumes and
sets, I did several movies with Woody Allen, and he taught me
a lot of great things, and one of the things he said was 'success
gives people permission to be exactly who they were always supposed
to be anyway', and the good get gooder and the worse get worse,
and you can always tell with any young person.
And we say that, the crew, we'll say 'God help us with this one,
if he ever gets to be a superstar, because hell will hath no fury...'
But then there are other people, Sandra Bullock is a great example,
George Clooney is another one, where they were around for a while
and nothing happened and then it happened and they were great
to begin with and they got nicer even. But some people, once they
get it, they totally abuse the power and make everyone suffer
and we all dread having to go to work with those people, and you
have to deal with them too. Nicole Kidman is another nice one.
Q So he's in good company...
A (laughs) Colin is just a lad. And you know what people are
always saying to me, 'he could be a John Star?' Who knows? And
what if he isn't. He will still be this great looking guy, who
is a wonderful actor and who will make more money than anybody
else anyway, so who cares?
And he will still have a good life, he's very close to his family
and I think that has a lot to do with it. I think Colin will be
fine. I really do.
Q The premise of the movie - the whole three acts set around
the phone booth - is challenging for a director because you have
to keep the audience with you. How did you approach that?
A That was one of the exciting things about making it. When
we showed it to the first research audience, and these are people
who have come in off the street and don't know what they are doing
to see, we didn't even know if people would sit still for a movie
in a telephone booth, you know, they are used to seeing huge explosions,
car chases, the cavalry coming over the hill.
At first there were a lot of laughs in the beginning, then when
they start to realise what is going on in this movie, at one point,
I was standing at the back of the theatre and there was dead silence,
you couldn't hear a pin drop in the theatre.
And that's exciting for a director, because you know you've got
And a lot of that is about the performance and the script was
obviously just great. I mean, I knew if we could hook people in
they would want to stay with us.
Q There are a few laughs early on. It gives publicists a hard
A Shepherd is a certain kind of animal. He could be doing
any job, really. He's a hustler and he's used to spinning the
truth, so much so that he doesn't really know what is the truth
I like when he says 'I'm part of the big circle of lies, I should
be president..' We had a lot of fun on it. Everybody here (at
the Toronto Film Festival) has been great about it. Ever since
we got off the plane people have been coming up and saying 'your
movie is the hot ticket..'
Q Let's talk about the violence. It's implied more than graphic,
presumably that's what you intended?
A You know what it is, it's the sense of violence. It's like
Falling Down, the sense of violence is more violent than an action
movie. Once you see hundreds of people dying, you know it's a
comic book, you see 50 gun shots and you get inured to it. But
the sense of impending violence is scarier than graphic violence.
And if it works, that's the cast.
Q When you started in design did you hope that it would lead
A No, design was to pay the bills. I grew up very poor, my
father was dead by the time I was four, and my mother was out
at work six days a week, and three nights a week and we lived
poor. I started working when I was nine, I delivered meat for
My mother worked in a dress store and next door was a book shop
and the woman in the bookshop paid me if I came in and stacked
the books in the window attractively, so I started doing windows
and I worked my way through art school doing windows.
I wanted to make movies since I was seven. I grew up behind a
movie theatre before television and I spent all the time in the
movies that I could, but there were no film schools, no film colony
and we were poor and Hollywood, then, was like a billion miles
away, so I worked in this store to do the windows and everyone
said, 'you have an eye, you have style, you should go into fashion
you will make a lot of money..' And the phrase 'a lot of money'
meant that I had those adolescent fantasies of taking my mother
out of poverty, so she didn't have to work and get her a nice
apartment and buy her a fur coat.
I remember those fantasies. But that didn't happen, she died when
I was still young.
Q When you arrived in Hollywood was it as you expected?
A (laughs) No, it was so different. I had this concept
that there were these movie studios and behind the gates there
were all these geniuses,
you know this beehive of activity with all these geniuses rushing
And then of course, no names, but I've met and worked with and
observed some of the great legends of my lifetime, some of them
have been inspirations, some of them I would have preferred to
have loved from afar.
Because I can't look at them on the screen, because I know too
much. But I still love movies and I still get excited and have
been very blessed to work with a lot of young talent on the way
Q You certainly have. You know how to pick a future star that's
A I've been lucky that the people I've chosen have been great
in those parts and the audience has embraced them. It started
with St Elmo's Fire, because that cast was so fresh then, and
then Lost Boys, and then Flatliners.
But, of course, the big films and the big stars weren't being
offered to me, so I had to find the best people around for my
And Colin just walked in from Dublin, into my hotel room in London,
and wound up getting the lead in that movie (Tigerland) and I
don't know how that happened myself, but he is deserving of it,
and I'm so proud of him. I can't say enough about the cast of
this movie, they worked their asses off.