Jul 22, 2017

INTERVIEW: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN


'I threw myself into reading a lot of first hand accounts by people who've been there, a lot had been compiled by the imperial war museum. Joshua Levine had compiled a book called Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk, he came on as a historical advisor. I spent a lot of time talking with him, reading materials that he was able to find me. Then we were able to have the great honor and privilege of actually going and speaking to people who had been there. Obviously at this point, veterans of Dunkirk are very old and there are not that many left, but some of them very graciously gave us their time, and we were able to actually talk to them about what it was like to be there. One of the stories that stuck in my head and worked it's way into the film was a veteran telling me about watching people just walk into the sea, just as if they're going to swim. I asked him were they literally trying to swim back to England or swim out to the boat, were they killing themselves? He didn't know. He knew they were gonna die. It's a chilling thing to hear.   

My pitch to Warner Brothers was, we're going to put the audience into the cockpit of a Spitfire and have them dogfight against the German Messerschmitts. We're going to put them on the beach, feeling the sand getting everywhere, confronting the waves. We're going to put them on small civilian boat bouncing around the waves on this huge journey heading into this terrifying water. It’s virtual reality without the goggles. I knew that I didn't want to make a film that could be dismissed as old-fashioned, something that wasn't relevant to today's audiences. What that ruled out for me immediately was getting bogged down in the politics of the situation. Seeing the generals in room. Seeing Churchill.  We don't have Generals in rooms pushing things around on maps. We don't name the enemy. We barely glimpse the enemy. It's really about a survival story. I wanted to go through the experience with those characters.  We were very, very clear that rather than using CG recreations of British destroyers, we were trying to find ship and birds that matched closely as possible rather than computer generate them.  We would find the planes, the real planes, and fly them in real dogfights against each other and actually get the camera, get the actor up in the plane.  We were going to do this for real as far as possible.

You have to go to the experts. We got a chap called Dan Freeman who owns like six spit fires and is a fantastic flier himself. We got them involved in the stage to talk about the real characteristics of the planes, how they flew, how they can fly, what G-forces the pilot can really sustain. When people do these dogfights using these computer generated planes, they inevitably violate the real laws of physics. We want to teach the audience how difficult this would be. How you bank chasing a plane and try to shoot it you have to get your gun sight ahead of it and anticipate how far it can move, what wind is going to do to the bullets and the tracer fire. Nothing crashed that wasn't supposed to.  There was a rumor many months ago that I bought an antique plane and crashed it. We didn't do that. We built replicas.I think that for me the marine stuff was the most challenging. Even though this was by far the most complicated set of aerial scenes I've done, I'd done aerial work before on films like Dark Rises; I knew the pilots, I knew the cameraman, I knew how I would approach it, I knew how to split that work up. And I've done a lot of land-based action — not with a ton of extras, this was the biggest I've done  — but I sort of worked my way up to it through the Dark Knight films and so forth. Boats, that was an entirely new thing for me. And very, very challenging. 
I spoke to various filmmakers who'd shot in water before — spoke to Spielberg, spoke to Ron Howard about it, got some great advice. Both Steve and Ron very clearly felt that the best camera mode for shooting on a boat is handheld — even though we were shooting IMAX, because the camera man could steady themselves against the movement of the boat. That really proved to be the case. That's the way you get it done. It was very important for me to talk to actors before they read the script, which was very short — 75 pages, 76 pages, the shortest script I've ever written. Half a normal script. Very little dialogue, no back story. Just hints. So for example, when I went to talk to Mark Rylance about it, it was very important for him to understand the boat and to feel the tiller. He needed to feel the boat, to find how the physics of the situation could inform our understanding of the humanity of the character. The younger actors got very excited by that idea. It was vital for them, being there on the beach, being there out in the water. They're just really being in the elements and experiencing it and moving through it as people would have at the time. 
We knew the water was going to be a huge component of what the actors were going to have to go through. They were gonna have to be in the water, out in the open, in the Channel — not for individual shots, but for the whole shoot —  so it was very important that they be trained to deal with that safely. Our stunt guys put together a team of instructors. They did a lot of intense physical training for weeks where they would run in the waves, swim in the waves, get used to being in rough hazardous conditions. I think it was a shock to some of them, what was going to be required.  The first shooting day was in some of the worst weather —  very few film crews would gave carried on shooting. But for us, it looked marvelous with all this amazing foam washing up the beach. I’m known in the film business for having good luck with the weather. That's actually inaccurate. I often have terrible luck with the weather, but my philosophy is to shoot no matter what the weather is until the safety officer shuts us down. We tried to be opportunistic with how we shot. Grab the bad weather scenes when the weather's really bad, but always shooting, just keeping going, keeping going, no matter what the conditions are, as long as it's safe. 
My cameraman Hoyte van Hoytema and myself put wetsuits or drysuits on; he had housings made for the cameras so they could go out in the waves; when it came to open water work, the camera could actually float out on the water — half in, half out. We're in there, swimming with them. I firmly believe in leading from the front. The fact that we were able to be out there with them and  a part of the same physical elements they were dealing with, to some extent, experiencing what they're experiencing, was very much the spirit of those scenes. Being in it together and not sitting in a tent looking at video, I think it's vital for this kind of film.  By the end of the film the idea behind Dunkirk that we're trying to get across to the audience is, it's not about individual heroics. It's about communal heroism. It's about the tremendous sense of community that was vital to the success of the operation. That's what makes the unique story and that's why I think it's always served as something of a rallying point for British people. I also think it's a very Universal story. It's really about the individual drive for survival. And the very universal concept of a desperation to get home.' — Telegraph

INTERVIEW: NICOLE KIDMAN


'The second season to Top of the Lake took Kidman back to her roots in suburban Sydney where she grew up, and where, in the series, Elizabeth’s Moss’s detective is on the tail of a prostitution ring.  Kidman plays a feminist matriarch with a glorious cascade of grey hair, whose dinner table abounds with talk of Germaine Greer and revolutionary politics, but whose relationship with her adopted daughter, played by Campion’s own daughter, Alice Englert, has degenerated into a haggard war of attrition. Kidman’s performance — ferocious, knotted, full of thwarted love —  joins a growing throng of mothers she has played in recent years, from her saintly adoptive mother in Lion, to her Medea-like, murderously fierce mother in Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others. Kidman’s moms are as indomitable as Pacino’s gangsters.  

The strongest force I can find within me, right now, is the maternal force,” she says. “Romantically I'm obviously incredibly awake and alive. I have a really, really strong, good marriage. But maternal love brings you to your knees. It's surfacing in pretty much everything I do.”  What lends this weight is the hard-fought and at times torturously winding nature of Kidman’s own path to motherhood. The woman has had to fight. Two miscarriages. Two adopted children with Cruise. A miraculous, unexpected late pregnancy with, and finally, a fourth daughter, born via surrogate just a few years ago. The plot of Top of the Lake: China Girl, too, touches on surrogacy, which in Australia is still illegal, feeding a black market. “Jane said to me, ‘Would this be a very difficult place for you to go in terms of what the theme of this is?’ And I said, ‘No, because my story seemed very different.’ It was agreed upon and it was a very beautiful thing, which a woman chose to give us. It was an incredible gift that she did.”  

The role brought her home in other ways, too. Kidman’s own mother was a nurse who sacrificed her career to raise a family but remained active in the woman’s movement of the 1970s. “I grew up in that world of feminism,” says Kidman. “I grew up watching those dinner parties. That's been my life since I was probably four.” If actors have long enough careers, they often end up playing their parents at some point. Brando burst onto the scene playing rebels, wounded and bristling against authority, but his maturity was reached when he stepped into the shoes of colonel Kurtz and Corleone: the very authority figures his youthful rebellion presupposed, viewed through a glass darkly.  
Kidman as a teenager was a handful, hitting the clubs in Sydney by the time she was 14 in tutu, fishnets, and lace-up black boots, fighting with her mother every step of the way. Her fights with her tearaway daughter in Top of the Lake: China Girl thus played  like re-matches with her own teenage self, this time from her mother’s point of view. “Absolutely. I can do, and wear, and behave any way I want, and screw all of this. Absolutely. And, I'm gonna be with any man that I want, and who cares about your beliefs? Totally. So, I've come at it from both sides, which is why Jane is so clever, because was she was able to sort of flip things.  She’s incredibly perceptive.”' — from my interview in the Sunday Times

Jun 4, 2017

Albums of my Lifetime

2016 22, A Million — Bon Iver
2015 Carrie & Lowell — Sufjan Stevens
2014 Morning Phase — Beck
2013 Heartthrob — Tegan & Sarah
2012 Some Nights — Fun.
2011 The Belle Brigade — The Belle Brigade
2010 Contra— Vampire Weekend
2009 Wolfgang Amadeus — Phoenix
2008 For Emma, Forever Ago — Bon Iver
2007 The Reminder — Feist
2006 Alright Still — Lily Allen
2005 Tiny Cities — Sun Kil Moon
2004 More Adventurous — Rilo Kiley
2003 Want One — Rufus Wainwright
2002 Blacklisted — Neko Case
2001 Discovery — Daft Punk
2000 Bachelor no 2 — Aimee Mann
1999 69 Love Songs — The Magnetic Fields
1998 White Ladder — David Gray
1997 OK Computer — Radiohead
1996 Odelay — Beck
1995 What's The Story Morning Glory — Oasis
1994 Parklife — Blur
1993 Debut — Bjork
1992 Ingenue — k d Lang
1991 Diamonds and Pearls — Prince
1990 Nightclubbing — Grace Jones
1989 3 Feet High and Rising — De La Soul
1988 From Langley Park to Memphis— Prefab Sprout
1987 Tango In The Night — Fleetwood Mac
1986 Parade — Prince
1985 Cupid & Psyche — Scritti Politti
1984 Pirates — Rickie Lee Jones
1983 Speaking in Tongues — Talking Heads
1982 Dare — The Human League
1981 Computer World — Kraftwerk
1980 Remain In Light — Talking Heads
1979 Off the Wall — Michael Jackson
1978 Parallel Lines — Blondie
1977 Rumors — Fleetwood Mac
1976 Arrival — ABBA
1975 The Koln Concert — Keith Jarett
1974 Court and Spark — Joni Mitchell
1973 Innervisions — Stevie Wonder
1972 Pink Moon — Nick Drake
1971 What's Going On — Marvin Gaye
1970 Bridge Over Troubled Water — Simon & Garfunkel
1969 Abbey Road — The Beatles
1968 Astral Weeks — Van Morrison
1967 Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band — The Beatles

Mar 19, 2017

My 'favorite films of my lifetime'



Favorite films from each year I have been alive:—
2016 La La Land
2015 Carol
2014 Birdman
2013 12 Years A Slave
2012 Amour
2011 Beginners
2010 The Social Network
2009 Avatar
2008 The Hurt Locker
2007 Zodiac
2006 Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
 2005 Brokeback Mountain
2004 Birth
2003 Mystic River
2002 Catch Me If You Can
2001 The Piano Teacher
2000 You Can Count On Me
1999 The Sixth Sense
1998 Rushmore
1997 Boogie Nights
1996 Fargo
1995 Before Sunrise
1994 Pulp Fiction
1993 Schindler's List
1992 The Last of the Mohicans
1991 The Double Life of Veronique
1990 Goodfellas
1989 Dead Calm
1988 Dangerous Liaisons
1987 The Untouchables
1986 Blue Velvet
1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo
1984 The Terminator
1983 The Right Stuff
1982 Diner
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark
 1980 The Elephant Man
 1979 Alien
1978 Halloween
1977 Annie Hall
 1976 Taxi Driver
 1975 Jaws
1974 Chinatown
1973 Badlands
1972 The Godfather
1971 Klute
1970 Five Easy Pieces
1969 The Wild Bunch
1968 Stolen Kisses
1967 The Graduate

Feb 26, 2017

Oscar predictions 2017

Here are my predictions for all 24 categories for the Oscar this weekend.  Drinking game suggestion: a shot of ice-cold Stolichnaya for every time Donald Trump is addressed either directly or indirectly. Na zdorovie
Best Motion Picture: La La Land 
Best Director: Damien Chazelle 
Best Actor: Denzel Washington 
Best Actress: Emma Stone 
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis 
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali 
Best Cinematography: La La Land 
Best Editing: Arrival 
Best Original Script: Manchester By The Sea 
Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight 
Best Production Design: La La Land 
Best Costume: Jackie 
Best Score: La La Land  
Best Song: La La Land  
Best Make Up & Hair: Star Trek 
Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge 
Best Sound Mixing: La La Land 
Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book 
Best Animated Feature: Zootopia 
Best Documentary: O. J. Made In America 
Best Foreign Language film: The Salesman 
Best Animated Short: Piper 
Best Short Documentary: Extremis 
Best Live-action Short: Ennemis Interieurs

Jan 25, 2017

REVIEW: SPIELBERG: A LIFE IN FILM


'Few great film directors are as picked on as Steven Spielberg.For a large segment of the cineaste population, a liking for Spielberg over say, Scorsese, is like saying you prefer McCartney to Lennon, David Hockney to Damien Hirst, pop to rock, sun shine to storm clouds  —  sign of an aesthetic sweet tooth, an addiction to flimsy childlike fantasy over grit and darkness and ambiguity and fibre and all the other things we are taught are good for us in film crit class. I once suggested to a scowling Sight & Sound reader that while a director like Kubrick might be the epitome of the aesthetic will-to-power — bending the medium to do the master’s bidding  — Spielberg’s work was the place you looked to see the medium of cinema left to its own devices — what it gets up to in its free time.  The look of disgust on his face was immediate. Conversation over. I might as well have told him I still sucked my thumb. Partly the is down to his outsized success: he's an unignorable target. That success discomfits our notion of the artist, an ill-notion when applied the movies at the best of times, but particularly someone like Spielberg, athletically slam-dunking one box office record after another in the first half of his career, before omnivorously morphing  in the second half, greedily bent on acquiring the credibility that is naturally accorded someone like Scorsese, the auteur agonistes, tearing his films from his breast like chunks of flesh while wandering in the Hollywood wilderness. Never mind that Scorsese’s reputation for speaking to the Human Condition rests on his strip mining of a narrow strip of gangland and the male psyche. Spielberg is a people-pleaser and nothing attracts bullies more.' — from my review of Molly Haskell's Steven Spielberg: a Life in Film

Jan 11, 2017

MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIES of 2017


  • FEBRUARY 
  • Kong: Skull Island (March 10th) The Circle (April 28) Emma Watson,  Tom Hanks 

  • MAY
  • Snatched (May 12) Amy Schumer w Goldie Hawn 
  • Alien: Covenant (May 19) — Scott, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce 
  • The Dinner — Oren Moverman,  Cate Blanchett , Richard Gere and Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Rebecca Hall and Chloë Sevigny 
  • JUNE 
  • Wonder Woman (June 2) starring Gal Gadot.
  • The Beguiled (June 30) Sofia Coppola remakes Clint Eastwood’s 1971 western w Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.

  • JULY 
  • Dunkirk (July 21) Christopher Nolan w Tom Hardy and Harry Styles 
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14) — Matt Reeves, Andy Serkis, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer

  • AUGUST 
  • Baby Driver (TriStar, 8.11)  Edgar Wright,  Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey 
  • SEPTEMBER
  • American Made (Universal, September 29th) — Doug Liman, Tom Cruise  
  • OCTOBER
  • Blade Runner 2049 —   w/ Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Barkhad Abdi, Lennie James and Jared Leto.

  • Personal Shopper (IFC Films, 3.10.17) — Assayas, Stewart

  • NOVEMBER
  • Darkest Hour  Joe Wright (Focus, 11.24), about Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman)  John Hurt  Kristin Scott Thomas  
  • DECEMBER
  • Star Wars: Episode VIII —  Rian Johnson Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o 

  • Downsizing — Payne,  Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis.
  • Suspiria — Luca Guadagnino, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz.
  • Untitled Dick Cheney Drama — (Paramount) Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and Kevin Messick.
  • Untitled 1967 Detroit Riots Docudrama — Kathryn Bigelow, Mark BoalJohn Boyega 
  • The Current War (Weinstein Co.) — Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller
  • Lean on Pete (A24) — Andrew Haigh, Charlie Plummer, Travis Fimmel, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Steve Zahn
  • Ismael’s Ghosts (Magnolia) — Arnaud Desplechin, Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Louis Garrel
  • Call Me By Your Name — Luca Guadagnino,  Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg  
  • Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Project — Daniel D Lewis
  • The Lost City of Z — James Gray
  • Okja — Bong Joon-ho, Jon Ronson
  • Wonderstruck — Todd Haynes, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams
  • A Quiet Passion — Terence Davies, Cynthia Nixon
  • Happy End —Michael Haneke,  Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant 
  • A Ghost Story (A24) — Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
  • Roma — Alfonso Cuaron,  Emmanuel Lubezki  
  • The Kidnapping of Edgardo Montara — Spielberg, Tony Kushner, Oscar Isaac, Mark Rylance 
  • Mother — Darren Aronofsky, Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Ed Harris
  • Logan Lucky —  Steven Soderbergh,  Adam Driver, Channing Tatum, Seth MacFarlane, Daniel Craig, Katherine Heigl, Hilary Swank 
  • Chappaquiddick — John Curran, Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms 
  • Last Flag Flying — Richard Linklater w Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and J. Quinton Johnson
  • Stronger (Summit) — David Gordon Green, Jake Gyllenhaal 
  • War Machine (Netflix) —  David Michod,  Brad Pitt,  Ben Kingsley
  • Suburbicon (Paramount) — George Clooney, Joel and Ethan Coen, Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Josh Brolin and Oscar Isaac
  • The Shape of Water — Guillermo Del Toro, Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer
  • Inner City — Dan Gilroy, Denzel Washington  
  • The Sisters Brothers — Jacques Audiard 
  • Battle of the Sexes (Fox Searchlight) Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming
  • Tully — Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody w Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston
  • The Mountain Between Us (20th Century Fox, 10.20.17) —  Chris Weitz, Idris ElbaKate Winslet 
  • Based On A True Story —  Roman Polanski,  Emmanuelle SeignerEva Green.
  • Untitled — Woody Allen, Vittorio Storaro, Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi
  • Annihilation  Alex Garland, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh  
  • Lady Bird — dir. Greta Gerwig, Saoirse Ronan 
  • Vox Lux — Brady CorbetRooney Mara 
  •  

Dec 22, 2016

BEST TV SHOWS of 2016


1. The Girlfriend Experience
2. Sillicon Valley
3. The Night Of
4. Top Chef
5. Westworld

Dec 19, 2016

BEST SONGS of 2016


1. 29 #Strafford APTS— Bon Iver
2. The Numbers — Radiohead
3. Sunday Love — Bats For Lashes
4. Everything I Am Is Yours — Villagers
5. Too Much is Never Enough — Florence + The Machine
6. Born Again Teen — Lucius
7. Tiny Human — Imogen Heap
8. Hey, Stellar — Honeyblood
9. Alive — Sia
10. Doria — Olafur Arnulds

Dec 17, 2016

REVIEW: SILENCE (dir. Scorsese)


'These early scenes, fraught with peril, are as tight with distrust and paranoia as anything in The Departed,and yet they are also unexpectedly moving. Shot often by guttering candle-light, shrouded in mist and shadow, we examine muddy but hopeful faces faces rendered beautiful by the simple quality of devotion, see hands clasping hands, exchanging crosses — the images as simple and transfixing as those of Albrect Durer. “Christ did not die for the good and beautiful, he died for the miserable and corrupt,” says Rodrigues, an article of Jesuit faith that could also encompass Scorsese’s own rogue’s gallery of sinners over the years... For all of Hollywood’s flimsy bromides to the “triumph of the human spirit,” the genuine article is a much more elusive creature. Yet here it is — stubborn, wily, unbeautiful — running right through this film like piano wire. Scorsese owes the world only one thing: his sincerity. With some of his recent work Scorsese has seemed a great filmmaker in search of the grand obsession that pushed his earlier films into existence. Silence is the first film of his in a long time that feels born of that pressure — like it needs to exist. The result feels like something close to a state of grace.'— From my review for Newsweek

Dec 3, 2016

BEST FILM SCORES of 2016


1.  La La Land, Justin Hurwitz
2. Arrival, Johann Johannsson
3. Jackie, Mica Levi
4. Before The Flood, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
5. Moonlight, Nicholas Britell

Dec 2, 2016

BEST PERFOMANCES of 2016


1.  Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash
2. Ruth Negga, Loving
3. Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
4. Emma Stone, La La Land
5. Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
6. Michelle Williams, Manchester By Sea
7. Ryan Gosling, La La Land
8. Rebecca Hall, Christine
9. Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
10. Tom Hanks, Sully

BEST MOVIES OF 2016


1.  La La Land
2. Manchester By The Sea
3. Silence
4. Loving
5. Arrival
6. O. J. Simpson: Made In America
7. Moonlight
8. Love & Friendship
9. Zootopia
10. 20th Century Women

Aug 9, 2016

INTERVIEW: ELLEN BURSTYN


"Ellen Burstyn is  the kind of actress who in England who would have been made a dame long ago: elegant of bearing,  regal of poise, but possessed of the the scrappy spirit of a prize-fighter.  When she first made it in Hollywood in the 1970s she was already in her forties, her   jaunty survivor’s humor  sparkling like a diamond in movies like Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show  (1971), Rob Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973),   and Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore  (1974), for which she won an Oscar. These days, she is enjoying a terrific second wind, portraying women who seem to have lived several lifetimes for directors who have barely had a chance to live half of one themselves — Darren Aronofsky, James Gray, and now Solondz, whose Weiner Dog is a pitch-black comedy about a female dachshund stoically enduring a series of ever more decrepit owners. Burstyn plays the oldest of these, a blind, crochety biddy who names the dog Cancer — a touch typical of the film’s kitschy deadpan humor, which is somewhere between John Waters and Robert Bresson. Wearing wraparound shades and speaking in Delphic monosyllables, Burstyn provides the film with a beating heart. Haunted, Scroogelike, by  the ghosts of Nanas past—identical young girls with copper tresses who  chide her in Anime-like monotone for missing out on forgiveness and love.  She awakes, her face a mask of tears.  “He's absolutely an individual voice," says the 78-year old actress of Solondz, whose Welcome to the Dollhouse first caught her attention while working  the film festival track in 1995. “As I read the script, I went ‘Oh, this guy is just so weird, so adorably weird.’ There's something very kind about the way he views us silly people. That’s what I have always loved — any filmmaker who has his own voice and is making his or her own kind of movies, because they have something that they want to say.” — from my interview for The Daily Telegraph

Jul 16, 2016

PROFILE: STEVEN SPIELBERG


'When Steven Spielberg is enthused, which is often, his sentences pick up speed and momentum, the words seemingly unable to leave his mouth fast enough, coming in a long unpunctuated sentences that have you worried he’s going to forget to breath.  We are sitting in the conference room of his production offices at Amblin Partners, a two-story baked adobe building that looks a little like a cross between Fred Flintstones cave and a Mexican resort chalet, situated in a quiet corner of the Universal lot surrounded by lawns, palm tress and slightly fake-looking boulders. On one wall of the conference room sits three Norman Rockwell originals and the famous Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane, mounted inside a protective glass case.  Downstairs are an editing suite, a screening room, complete with candy and refreshments, a daycare centre, and a restaurant-sized kitchen. Spielberg arrives tailed by a small team of assistants and assorted PR personnel waiting on his every word, like President Bartlett surrounded by his staffers in the West Wing. He is dressed in a rather natty suede jacket, his grey hair combed neatly, one of those men who never quite escaping the impression of having the finishing touches to any outfit provided by his wife. He sits down opposite me and clasps his hands together, a smile on his face, thumbs towards the ceiling with an attitude that says: what’s next. You get the sense of a formidable, fast-processing, if friendly, intelligence, courteously shutting down the 20 other things he has on the go in order to pivot his attention to you. “Because I’m so compartmentalized in my thinking,  I can think ahead a lot,” he tells me. “I can think very deeply forward and that’s my problem. It’s a blessing and it’s a curse.” When he was a child, his mother would tell him that his grandparents were coming to visit from Ohio, saying “its something to look forward to, they’re coming in two weeks…” He would count down with her. “Its something to look forward to, they’ll be here in a week.” Arguably, the countdown never stopped. Looking forward turned into the Spielberg occupation par excellence; from it derives his signature genre (sci-fi), his signature tone (optimistic), his signature narrative mode (Hitchcockian suspense), even his signature shot (an expectant face in close-up). While completing post-production on his Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG, and getting ready to shoot the virtual reality sci-fi thriller Ready Player One, while also in talks with Tony Kushner on another script, screenwriter David Koepp recently exchanged emails with him about ideas for a fifth Indiana Jones sequel. “I said I know you’re mixing and prepping and doing big interviews,” recalls Koepp. “Do you have the head space for it? You may be trying to do air traffic control in your head right now.’ He wrote back and said, ‘Let me worry about the air traffic control, you circle and chatter.’ Okay, here you go. I dumped all my ideas on him. Yeah, there’s a remarkable amount of head space.” It goes beyond multi-tasking — it actually calms him down, keeps him from the monomania of falling too in love with whatever it is he’s doing, or thinking it the best he’s ever filmed.  It can also trip him up — literally. On the set of The BFG, a film about the friendship of a kindly giant and a little girl that mixes live action and motion-capture animation and frequently requiring directing on three different scales at once, the floor was festooned with snaking camera cables.  “He was always tripping,” says star Mark Rylance, who plays the BFG, when I ask him which aspect of the director’s behavior he would zero in on if he were ever asked to play him. “It’s a hazardous place with the cables and stuff anyway but he has a tendency to trip. We would laugh and him and he would laugh too. His mind is so full of ideas, full of thoughts in his head. I asked him once what your element — earth, water, air, or fire — would you believe he said air?  If you did the exercise where you try and locate a person’s centre of gravity, it would not be down here, it would be up in his heart and in his head, you know.” ' — from my Spielberg profile for The Guardian