Compiled by: Jack Foley
SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains plot revelations
- do not read if you are intending to see the film
Q. Reflecting on the film, was In the Company of Men the impetus?
A. It's certainly in there. I think one of the grains of this
story came from a journalist somewhere, along the way, who asked
if I could imagine that story told with two women perpetrating
that set up that the men did.
And while I didn't imagine the two women could be as deceptive
as that, I imagined it to be more of a case that someone would
Men tend to have that kind of pack mentality. I didn't immediately
go and write something about it, but that was in my head when
I came upon the idea of an art student who used a person; that
seemed like a nice place to join those two ideas.
Q. Are we supposed to come away from the film reflecting on
artists, or a particular type of artist who's willing to sacrifice
everything for their art?
A. Well, I suppose I've done a lousy job if you don't. In
some way, there's a difficulty inherent in the piece when you're
trying to talk about art, that you're having to try and load everything
into the far end of the screenplay, or the play, because you don't
want to tip your hand.
You really want to fool the audience, as much as Adam is being
fooled, into believing its about a relationship and that she happens
to be an artist and not that he happens to be her work.
So you end up in a kind of moment towards the end of the picture
when you can really discuss the morality of what you've done because
you don't want to reveal it too early.
So that bit that is earlier in the picture, when they talk about
a performance artist that they've seen together, was I way that
I found to coax some of that material into it.
In fact, that wasn't in the play originally in Kings Cross, I
I thought you could get a little more of that, without tipping
my hand too much.
Q. Can we infer what sort of artist you are?
A. I know who Evelyn (Weisz) is, I understand her. In fact,
quite easily you could look at the piece and imagine it's as much
about writers as it is about fine artists, because writers, in
general, are fairly canibalistic, are vampiric, are looking to
take from some other source, so I see that in myself.
So I can use a situation in the paper, or a conversation with
a loved one, and feel it emotionally, but also be looking from
the point of view of, 'boy I'd love to poach a portion of that
and feed it into my work'.
Q. You mentioned the play, any major changes?
A. There's a few, but I didn't really have to open it up.
I got a lucky break in that way. I was afforded by two companies
- Working Title and Focus Features - they split the cost of the
film, and they really just enjoyed the experience of the play
and knew we wanted to make it for a small amount of money, but
the hitch was that we really didn't want to do the traditional
opening up of the play and trying to fool the audience into thing
that it's something other than it is.
They said, feel free to present it the way it is on stage.
There were ten scenes on stage, there were essentially 10 scenes
in the film.
I set, I guess, one more of the scenes out of doors
was two, now there are three
but other than that, and moving
it to somewhere in California .. that was simply because of necessity.
The company of actors who started in London had gone to New York
by the time the were done in New York, it was February
and rather than filming in the Midwest, where it was set, we switched
it to California to make it amenable to shooting.
But it was a very cosmetic change, because the heart of the thing
is obviously theatrical, and I couldn't be happier with that.
It's a film by virtue of being on film, but it has very theatrical
sets and the movement is limited within the frame.
Q. How crucial was it to get the original actors?
A. Hugely important. The notion of it began, not as a money-making
scheme, but as a kind
well it grew from the enjoyment of
the rehearsal room.
So the play hadn't opened or been received in any way, it was
simply working with actors, who it was fun to be with, rehearsing
the play and wanting to extend that feeling and knowing that the
run had an end to it.
So we sort of bantered around the idea of making a film of it
ourselves just very, very cheaply, but no one, ultimately, took
their credit card out of their pocket, so it wasn't until Working
Title, whom Rachel had been working with on About
A Boy, that it got realistic and someone said 'yes, I would
be happy to help you'.
So it really came out of having to work with those people, so,
therefore, I couldn't imagine replacing one of them.
It was weird doing a movie without Aaron Eckhart, and the only
way to get him in there was on the cover of a magazine. Other
than that, I had no desire to work with any other actors.
Q. Were you inspired by the movie Vertigo, or is the idea
of James Stewart remoulding Kim Novak into the woman he wants
a whole different ball game?
A. Well, since you picked a movie that was good, it would
be silly of me to say no. I wouldn't say that's a very apt model,
because I didn't go into it thinking that, but that kind of sense
certainly is in there.
There's less of the beautiful mood that's evoked in that. This
is very dialogue heavy, so there isn't the silence that he uses
in that movie.
But yeah, if you want to compare with that, in print, that would
But yes, I think there is something of that Pygmalion sensibility
in that desire to mould something.
But while Pygmalion is driven by a kind of love, there's far less
of that here, ultimately because
well perhaps I shouldn't
but love is something other than the figure
that's being moulded. It's the work that she does.
Q. Why do the only people who object to what Evelyn's doing
are the people most directly affected by it. Wouldn't more people
be upset by it?
A. Quite possibly, quite possibly. It was important to put
it in that kind of town, basically a college town, that has a
kind of conservative face to it.
That said, I think the notion of it is so particular and so peculiar
to them, for me, as long as it was in the realm of possibility
and that the idea was they're in that moment
not even Adam
has much time to react to it.
He doesn't go and start throwing things around; he's kind of stunned
into silence, except for getting up and leaving and finally thawing
a little and confronting her. And you could easily go that way.
And also, trying to capture a little bit of the theatrical experience.
When that scene happens in the play, the fourth wall is abandoned
and the actors go and sit in the theatre and her audience for
her exhibit, becomes the audience who's watching the show
and I don't remember any audience members leaving
was that sense of that same thing happening, that it was really
just Jenny and Phil and Adam who left.
The most difficult thing was to capture some sense of that, and
I started paring down her dialogue in that scene.
You couldn't get that same sense of her walking on different people
in the auditorium, as she was delivering that little moment at
the end, where she puts the audience, was well chosen by me as
the right kind of moment .. but also to simulate some sense of
have Evelyn look you in the eye and confront you.
That also was a kind of comparison to what happened in the theatre.
But had another director done that, it would be completely valid
I was big on the sound of what was going on
you could here
people who were disquieted by it, but no one actually stands up
It's like the same way people leave in a theatre - there's kind
of an implicit silent partnership that I can sit on stage and
talk to you, and say 'look this is why I'm a murderer and we're
all murderers, but I know what's in your heart and people can
stop looking at me or look away' - but they rarely talk back to
her, knowing it's a live performance. I think people are too nice
to make too big a thing about it.
Q. Compared to audiences - American audiences can be quite
A. I think, vocally, in film they can be - in the theatre
there's a contract they make.
Q. What sort of response do you get?
A. In this particular case? With this film, I think, it was
about what I imagined.
Somewhat polarising, but not always along gender lines. I think
everybody gets what she's doing and some people just reject it.
I think the interesting part of what she's done is that Adam's
there to look at, and most people are torn by what the result
Yes, that was a naughty thing to do, but you did get to sleep
with her, and you look pretty good. So, yes, it's a strange thing
to go, 'I'm not saying that emotionally that was right, but there's
something nagging at me that says you've come out of this okay,
and you're young and there's a lot of things on the side of this
isn't a great tragedy, it's just a shitty thing that's happened'.
Q. It's sounds like an argument against reality TV?
A. Not a bad argument, yeah.
Q. Would you define what Evelyn does as art?
A. Sure I would. I would define it as art because she's defined
it as that. I wouldn't disagree with her, that it's art. Do I
think it's good art? Or useful art?
But was it worth doing? I suppose that would be the big question
for me. I don't devalue it as her work and if she believes it
.. . it's such a fine, subjective line.
I certainly believe in that side of the argument, that it's so
subjective that they can both be right. He can see it as shit
and she can see it as art, and neither one has to be wrong about
that, so whether I see it as art is different to whether I would
Q. Do you think that because it's a small town that nobody
can confront the piece of art?
A. Well, at that moment perhaps. But, again, I think there's
that moment of recognition, and there's the time that you take
to process it. So there's not the aesthetic distance that one
who's experiencing that might need to process it.
Adam, himself, is still trying to process it, so we don't see
enough to make that conscious choice.
But is that an American trait? Certainly, we've cornered the market
on that. We're good at it.
Truth is such an elusive thing. As soon as I start to tell you
something, it's been altered, because of my perception.
When I mention In the Company of Men in this, I think the lead
character in that precipitates this kind of idea of let's hurt
I think he's a character who lies throughout the movie. I think
he lies to every single character he runs into, whereas I think
Evelyn, I consider her to be a very truthful person, in fact,
she tells the truth when you don't necessarily want to hear it.
But I knew within the parameters of what she was doing, she would
have to lie.
Q. Do you think it's a good way of making film, to do a play
A. It was great in this particular case, because it had a
really well rehearsed cast.
It allowed me to make it quickly, in an 18-day shoot
made them quicker
but it was about as quick as I've done.
In the Company of Men was 11 days, because we didn't have much
money, and had to do it that quickly. But all the rehearsal alowed
them to really sustain long, long takes.
You go into the ADR lounge, and can do huge chunks instead of
one line at a time.
They could match their delivery. That said, I didn't want it to
be an exact replication of the stage play, and I wanted them to
change their performance, and be aware of what they were doing,
and not just be a repeat of this is what I did on stage.
So when we were getting ready, I went back and removed certain
lines, which forced them to go back and rethink it.
In terms of shooting, it was very strange for them to be in certain
settings, with a stage and audience, and now not to have any laughs
to play for, or the energy of an audience to play with.
To actually have someone near you, who might hear what you're
talking about. So you have to be aware of all these things.
Somewhat cosmetic. It all still hinged on those relationships.
There wasn't a huge change, and because of the way I shot it quite
economically, really it was about gtting down to the heart of
the acting and the script.
Is it a good way to start? I'm not terribly sure, it's just the
one time I've done it. I would do it again, but it's not for me
like a great marketing tool; like I can really stretch my visibility,
like I'll do a play and turn it into a movie that way, and in
that way, I'l l at least be busy for the rest of my life.
It was just something that happened to this particular time.
Q. Why did you use Elvis Costello?
A. I used, on stage, the Smashing Pumpkins, which worked very
well for me. I loved that sound, that collegiate American sound.
But I also used it for a very particular reason. I think the energy
of it, not having an intermission on stage, and just the harsh
sonic attack of the music, was great. It didn't allow the audience
to think about it on stage.
And the reason the audience can think about it more on the film
is because the film is sort of perpetual. On stage, every time
there's a scene change, those actors must physically go back and
change their costumes, so the scene changes are what, 30 seconds,
And a Smashing Pumpins song sometimes takes that long to get going.
So the fury of it just washed over the audience, and didn't give
them a moment to contemplate it. And I liked that on stage.
Whereas, on film, you can do the next scene, and not have that
bridge. So I really needed something that was the antithesis of
what I had on stage, which was Elvis Costello - because he writes
such sharp, pointed, catchy hooks on songs that he's a master
And he's written so much material that he could kind of paint
each of the settings very quickly and vividly.
And so because of the craft of editing, I needed something that
was different from what I had used before.
I think he writes very lucidly about relationships and, frankly,
I just like 'em. It was a good excuse to meet him.
Q. Evelyn's art at the end. The more beautiful he is, the
more morally ambiguous he becomes
A. She does say that, yes.
Q. Then she says, if you look in a magazine, this is what
you see. Is this meant to be your comment on the culture of beauty
and celebrity? Basically, the more physically handsome you are,
the more you can get away with...
A. I think in this particular case, I believe in the notion
that opportunity goes hand in hand with those aspects.
I don't think it's just American culture, but I think it's certainly
there in our culture - a willingness to give those whom
and I don't mean it just to hang it on those with physical beauty
but have the attributes that we enjoy or wish to have for
ourselves: money, power, fame, looks, youth.
Those things intrigue us and we want to be part of that circle,
so we afford them a greater sense of metaphorical rope.
We give them more room in which to maneouvre, and I think that's
part of what she's putting forward, that I didn't see this necessarily
when I started this, but the more conventionally attractive he
became, the more opportunity he was afforded, and the greater
chance he had of stumbling and, in fact, stumble he did.
She sees it happening in her experiment, but I don't think it's
a crazy notion to say that we are driven, in American culture,
by a lot of those things.
Q. The film concentrates on a process of creating the art,
rather than the art being a human subject. Is this representative
of film work: how the film is presented to you while you watch
it? Because we're concentrating on how people are created, what
characters and afterwards, nothing, there is no reality as it
were. Is it reflecting art itself?
A. I wasn't, but that sounds so smart I'm going to jump on
the band wagon. I have no choice but to agree. I hope that was
what I was doing, that leaves me some wiggle room.
I do think that one of the great differences between theatre and
film is that there's a definite delineation between process and
product, and I think, in film, the emphasis is so much on product
that the commodity of it
so many films are created by a
company that is part of a larger company
. What they're
making is a package that sells.
It would be lovely to make something that's good, but I want to
make something that sells. I think, for me, that's the wrong way
to go about crafting something. And I do ultimately love the process
of theatre, more so than making the process of film.
Much as I enjoy making films, I'm new to it, and so I'm continually
delighted by it
although I probably shouldn't use the word
delighted, that will paint me in a wrong light.
I'm happy doing it. However, it's a strange marriage. As you're
doing the process, you're creating something every day that is
part of the product.
Whereas there's an obvious growth process for me that is different
from the product.
I think by film having that nature, I'm less comfortable with
Q. Is there an underlying cynicism in having a woman manipulating
A. No, that was more a documentary feel [laughs]. No, I don't
know why that would be more cynical, than a man manipulating a
woman. It just happens to be someone manipulating another person.
I don't see her as inherently cynical. My views, I don't think,
are inherently cynical on relationships for women or anything
at worst, probably, sceptical; I think that human nature
is such that we have a great capacity to do both good and bad.
And that we're often easily led to making a less worthy choice.
The fact that Evelyn is female doesn't, to me, signify anything
more to me that what her gender is. I think Jenny is quite the
opposite of that.
Although, seemingly, benign, she proves herself to be wilful.
And so I don't' see it as being aggressive, I see it as being
an assertive person. She's the first one to stand up and say,
'as far as I'm concerned this is wrong'.
Q. Do you triangulating the real emotion by choosing extremes?
A. Yeah, in the end I'm writing fiction, I'm creating an entertainment.
Hopefully, I'm entertaining. Every so often, I'll run into someone
who's seen something of mine, and they'll say, 'I enjoyed it,
well I can't say enjoy'
And I'll say, 'why not, why not
enjoy whatever it is?
Entertaining me means whether it was good , I sat through it,
I was compelled, whatever. I'm trying to tell a story, but I'm
also trying to keep the character engaged.
I don't care if they like the character, so much as they find
them interesting, and want to know what happens next.
That's my ultimate job, to keep asking that question over and
over until the end
I think extremes, you're looking to
create conflict, I'm not a documentarian.
I don't lift directly from life. I just had a play open here yesterday,
that is as close to writing something in the moment of incident.
As I often do, it often takes place in an undefined geography.
But I think those extremes help to create a better battleground.
A place to have everything that's in between played out by having
the two ends of the continuum there, so, yeah, I do look out for
what will create friction from the beginning.