Interview by Sean Boelman
The Phantom of the Open debuted at last year’s BFI London Film Festival to great acclaim. Written by Simon Farnaby (Paddington 2) and directed by Craig Roberts (Eternal Beauty), the film tells the unbelievably true story of Maurice Flitcroft, a man who entered the British Open despite not being a professional and ended up scoring the highest round in the history of the tournament.
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to talk with Farnaby and Roberts in advance of the film’s release. We talked about golf movies, the Flitcroft family, Paddington 2, and more. Check out the interview below and make sure to see The Phantom of the Open in theaters beginning June 3.
On Golf in The Phantom of the Open
disappointment media: So what are some of your favorite movies that feature the sport of golf?
Simon Farnaby: Oh, good question. I mean, Caddyshack is probably my favorite. Yeah, but Craig and I disagree a lot over Happy Gilmore. I usually love all the films that Craig loves, but I really hate Happy Gilmore. And I think I hate you because I don't think it's a golf movie. I think it's a hockey movie.
Craig Roberts: Yeah. I think you're right. If you look at it that way, it's brilliant.
Farnaby: But I'll tell you something, which is that I grew up around golf and I love golf, and always sort of wanted a good golf movie that did golf some justice in terms of this sort of competition of it. I mean, Tin Cup got pretty close. But I always went, "Why do these courses look so shit?" Like they don't look like that. Championship courses look a particular way. And they never ever look like that on screen. And when we shot this movie, I realized why. Which is because no members will let you shoot on their course, no matter how much money you throw at them. Because they just don't want their golf club to close for even like half a day.
Roberts: And it makes it difficult because you also can't get the equipment onto the greens. That was certainly a challenge.
Farnaby: So I really had a lesson there on why they look like that. I mean, actually one of the courses looks great. On the Lynx course, Danny Kent looks amazing. Although the wind was howling, and no one could stand up.
disappointment: Something in a film like The Phantom of the Open, you actually kind of have to make the sport scenes look unprofessional, because it's about someone who is not very good at golf. Was this a challenge?
Roberts: Well, it's just him that's not very good. So I suppose the biggest challenge with golf is that if you love golf, which a lot of people do, then it's fantastic. But then a lot of other people don't love golf as well and they find it boring. So for us, it was about keeping it interesting and entertaining. And you know, somebody who stood in the middle of a green field can get boring very quickly. So we just wanted to make sure, I suppose, that the camera moves and all that just matched his energy, you know, and his drive. And that was difficult keeping that going.
Farnaby: Actually, you know, showing bad golf is easier than showing good golf because of the shortness of the shot.
Roberts: That's true actually, yeah.
Farnaby: Sometimes what people struggle with watching golf on TV is that you can't see where the ball is going. Because they hit it so far. But Maurice didn't do that. So we didn't have to deal with that problem.
On the Flitcroft Family
disappointment: Something else that I loved about The Phantom of the Open is that just as much about family as it is about golf, how did this theme resonate with you?
Farnaby: Yes, it was. You know, Maurice and his wife, Jean had a very special relationship and the boys, you know, the twins and Michael, Maurice's stepson. So, in a way that was, as a screenwriter, the thing to get right. It's not really about golf, it's about a family, you know, and those characters and how they interact and what their sort of family philosophy is, and all that sort of stuff. And then when Craig came aboard, Craig was really into all that as well. And even more and going look, let's get this relationship right. And then getting Sally Hawkins, who can really hold up. In real life, Jean was Maurice's rock, and Sally managed to do that sort of brilliantly. So yeah, it's a good spot. It's very much about family.
Roberts: The way I look at it is that it's about somebody who's trying to defy the odds that he's given. You can't do that without his family at all. And certainly without Jean. I think as confident he is that he wants to do it, I think she believes in him more than he probably does as well. So that's a really powerful thing to have, you know, and it's helped many, many people throughout history. I think that's important to reflect.
disappointment: So one of my favorite bits in the film was the Fantastic Flitcrofts, the dancing twins. How did you go about incorporating this absurd and charming duo into the film?
Farnaby: Well, it was a great thing to have because they were genuinely world champion disco dancers, you know, Maurice had this philosophy that you see in the film of you know, just try and it doesn't matter if you fail. And they, in a way, are a part of that debate because they did try and then they succeeded. But they succeeded at something that had a very short life span, which was disco dancing, which died in the mid '80s. So it was great to have that because a film is kinda like a debate, sometimes I think, and it's good to have all the different elements of that. And they were part of that, and it was real, I was lucky enough to meet them. I mean, James is still alive and is in the film, actually. But I met Jean and James together when I first did the research for the movie, and they're really amazing characters and actually danced everywhere that they went and make a cup of tea and they go and dance.
Roberts: Christian and Jonah, we were very lucky to get them to be honest. We were about five weeks out from shooting, and I was panicking. But as soon as I saw the video, they sent a kind of an improv dance and then some acting self tape. And first off, they look like I don't know if you know the band The Last Shadow Puppets? It's Alex Turner and Miles Kane. And they kind of look like them. Like a funny version. Loved that. And then I Skyped with them when they got out. And I just love their energy so much. It kind of you know, that's how Boogie Nights feels.
disappointment: And I mean, as a whole, I think the cast in the film is phenomenal. I mean, you have Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins. What was it like working with the cast to bring the Flitcrofts to life?
Roberts: It was a dream. It's the hardest part of the process, getting that right. Because, you know, you can shoot on the best cameras in the world. But if you don't have good actors, your movie's doomed. If you have a great actor or an iPhone, it's going to be a better movie. So getting that right is hard. But really satisfying once it comes together. When it came together for me was actually when we did a bunch of rehearsal for that. I never really rehearse to get it right. It's kind of to get it wrong and get all that out, really. But when it came to the first thing we had as a family, it was the scene where everybody was talking over each other. The dog was barking. And I kind of said to the actors that I kind of want it to feel like Uncut Gems, that Safdie Brothers movie. Just complete chaos. And weirdly, because they all could just talk over each other. I think it was very freeing for them. You could feel the chemistry and they all came together in that moment.
disappointment: So do you have a favorite alias that Maurice Flitcroft used?
Farnaby: Oh, God, I mean, Arnold Palmtree obviously, and I do think Count Manfred von Hoffmanstel. Like why put Count on it? And what Count has ever played golf? I mean, I've never seen Count in front, like that was an odd one. But Gene Paycheki--
Roberts: That's pretty good as well. I like Hoppy. Gerald Hoppy.
On Paddington 2 and Heartwarming Stories
disappointment: Mr. Farnaby, Paddington 2 is a pop culture phenomenon. It was even a plot point in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent that came out this year. But did you ever expect that film to be such a smash?
Farnaby: No. Actually, I haven't seen the film yet, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. [to Roberts] Have you heard about this?
Roberts: No, I didn't.
Farnaby: I'll show you it in a bit. I've got it on my phone. And somebody sent me a clip of it. And both Paul King and I had a little chat and said it was almost the thing that made us most proud of the movie. Because like you say, it's become pop culture. And I had so many texts, and for so many people, that's their favorite bit of the movie. But we knew that the plan was to try and make two better than one. That was the goal we gave ourselves. And it was quite a hard thing to do, because it was really loved the first one. And so we really gave ourselves a tough job. But you know, it took us about two years to write it. And I think we put in a lot of effort. So it was nice to see it sort of come off. Maybe that's just how long you need to spend writing films.
disappointment: Well, like Paddington 2, I would say The Phantom of the Open is like this heartwarming, crowd pleasing, inspiring story. What stands out about these types of stories to you?
Roberts: Well, for me, it's escapism, isn't it? That's the important thing. I think cinema at its core, sure, should reflect society and all that stuff. But I go to the cinema to escape and to feel good. It's the kind of the Spielberg/Kubrick debate where you can go to a Kubrick movie and come out questioning the world and yourself, or you got to a Spielberg movie and come out and feel great and warm. And at this time in my life, I want to feel warm. And I think that's what's important.
Farnaby: Yeah, and I like characters that sort of reflect our fears, but don't have the same sort of reactions to them. For example, you know, I think we're all slightly frightened of failure, you know. And I say this to my daughter who's eight all the time, she tries things and is sort of scared to fail. And it's really important to go, it doesn't really matter if you fail, or like, somebody said, "Failing is success, part one," or something I don't know. I think I just said it, I forgot the quote. Craig and I even talked about The Big Lebowski, we both love The Big Lebowski, and that's got bowling in it, and this does golf. And as a character, he's sort of confident in his own lifestyle. And is fine with it, you know, and Maurice just went for it. He had this character that was like, "I'm gonna take my dream, and I'm gonna go for it, no matter what people think of me." And that's something that I think we like to see, you know, because we're so frightened of it ourselves. And we like to see people doing that and we can laugh and cry at that person, because it's a real hero's effort to do that, you know? Whereas most of us just go, "I'm not going to try anything in case I fail."
On Executing the Film
disappointment: Mr. Farnaby, you adapted the script from the book that you co-wrote, what was that process like for you?
Farnaby: Yeah, it was fine. Because I'd written the screenplay before I wrote the book, actually, and the screenplay was not very good. And then I did the book. You know, everyone should write a biography first, if they're gonna do a screenplay, because you just find out so much stuff. You know, you've got to do 50,000 words on one person. And then it's just a case of, I call it kind of like curating those elements into what I know about crafting screenplays. So it's actually a much easier process than doing straight fiction, which can go in any direction. And you just have to keep going down blind alleys. But this had lots of elements. I mean, the main difference to the bullshit screenplay I wrote, and the final one was, was finding an ending, because it's quite hard to write a sports movie where the person doesn't get any better at the sport. But what he does is find success in another way. And his sort of trip to the USA, was something that nobody knew about. It wasn't in the obituaries. And it wasn't in the newspapers. And that was all from digging in and going and doing research. And that gave us the end to the movie without giving too much away. Yeah, like you say it was once I'd sort of gone through the pain of researching and writing the book, the screenplay was fairly straightforward.
disappointment: I want to talk a little bit about the dream sequences in the film. I thought they were gorgeous. What went into creating those?
Roberts: Well, they were there already to be honest, they were in the script. The whole Starry Night aspect of it was there. So it was basically finding a good team that could execute it and bring that to life. And finding the right color palette for it all really. It was important, I think the escapism of it all. He wanted to, you know, to break out and do something that the people were telling him he couldn't do. So I think they're important to have in there. And when I read it, that's what really attracted me to the script. It kind of felt like The Big Lebowski, him walking up the steps. So that was really fun.
Farnaby: Yeah, I mean, Craig's being very modest. I wrote those because I wanted them and it was like a Billy Liar type thing. But that's why I'm not a director, because I wouldn't have had a clue. I was like, that's what I want. There's a dream sequence. But I didn't have a clue how to do it and actually created it brilliantly. I mean, even when he's on the tee and he hits his shot. And you see it from the ball's eye point of view. I was like, I have no idea how I was gonna do this, but I believe Craig pioneered a new type of shot, right?
Roberts: I didn't need to, I took it.
Farnaby: Oh you stole it?
Roberts: Yeah, from Simon's favorite film. I took it from Happy Gilmore. [They laugh]
The Phantom of the Open hits theaters on June 3.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Written by and starring Joel Kim Booster, Fire Island is a rarity in Hollywood: a film about queer people of color made by queer people of color. In celebration of its upcoming release, we at disappointment media got to talk with the film's director, Andrew Ahn, and one of its stars Tómas Matos, about the film, its significance, and the wonderful dynamic between its central characters. Check out the interview below!
Fire Island streams on Hulu beginning June 3.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy, two of the minds behind Bojack Horseman, Undone is a fascinating sci-fi adult animation show on Prime Video. Season one posed some interesting questions, and now season two expands upon them in thought-provoking ways you wouldn’t expect.
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to talk with Rosa Salazar, lead actress and producer of season two of the show, also known for starring in fan-favorite Alita: Battle Angel. In the interview, we talk about acting for performance capture, the complex themes of the series, and more. Check it out below!
On Working With Performance Capture
disappointment media: So you've done quite a bit of work at this point with motion capture performances. What about motion capture performances do you like working with?
Rosa Salazar: So Jon Landau, who produced Alita who's just like an OG producer, would kill me, if I said motion capture. [She laughs.] I'd get a stern phone call. "It's performance capture!" That's what he would yell at me on the phone. It's been drilled into my head at this point. So performance capture is what I did on Alita and rotoscope animation, I would call it also performance capture. It is more motion capture than performance capture, because they don't have two high definition cameras five inches from my face. But what I love about acting, and then grouping that work with CGI artists, rotoscope animators, and traditional animators is that I get to exist freely. Those two methods are incredibly different: performance capture for Alita and rotoscope animation, the acting is very, very, very different. For Undone, it's so amazing, because we don't have makeup touches. We don't have someone coming in and straightening out your shirt. We're not worried about the wrinkles on your shirt, or the unkemptness of your hair. We don't have a lot of wardrobe changes because it is a cartoon, after all, a cartoon closet. We wear the same thing every day. There's no major light changes. There aren't incredibly intricate camera changes. So you are totally free to exist within the moment. And with rotoscope animation, it's incredibly challenging physically, emotionally, mentally. Just to compare, on something like Alita, it's such a behemoth. It's such a slow moving beast, you have a lot of technology, people running around doing certain things, you have major changes in camera and location, and you have a lot going on. So you have a lot of downtime. Something like Undone, you have zero downtime. You never sit in your cast chair, you have a 30 minute lunch, and you go right back to work. And when you are working, you are working. On something like Alita, maybe you do an eighth of a page, four pages, and that's working with someone like Robert Rodriguez, who knows exactly what he needs, doesn't waste time. And on something like Undone, you could shoot anywhere from 10 to 20 pages a day. So on any given day, you can go on an emotional roller coaster of breaking up with your boyfriend, seeing your dead father, having a falling out with your sister, having a falling out with your mother, getting into a car accident, seeing the expanse of the universe, all in one workday. When you go to your job, do you have to do such a crazy emotional upheaval day after day after day? I mean, it's incredibly challenging. And because we have no downtime, you are working at a rapid clip. So that's what I love about it. I love that it's uninterrupted. So you're really in the flow, and you really get to this meditative state with it, and it's just divine.
disappointment: So in interviews for season one, you talked about some of the challenges of shooting that performance capture type performance in the rooms of green screens. Was it any easier or different to approach Season Two after having the experience of season one under your belt?
Salazar: Yes, it was different. So Hisko Hulsing, who is the amazing director behind Undone, puts it the best way. He's like, "Season one, it was like no one really knew what we were doing yet. We were building a car while learning to drive it." And then it came out, it was very special. We're like, "Okay, we got this!' And then season two, he's like, "Man, now we have a Maserati. Let's put the top down and put it on cruise control!" And then the pandemic hit. So we had to, you know, build a new car. So It was different doing season two, even though we had all of this intelligence that we accrued from doing season one, we had to bob and weave with the changing landscape of time. We had to be fluid, but that is the nature of Undone is sort of learning how to drive the car while you're building it anyway. So even the education in doing that, and doing the unknown really dovetails nicely into the work itself. Now with COVID and season two, things changed dramatically. We were stripped down from like 20 people on set to around six to eight people on set. We had just the actors, the cameraman, our AD, Patrick Metcalf. All of our producers and our directors and our animators were on Zoom. We had our COVID Officer, Ron — shout out to Ron, he was awesome. And that was it. And it was me and Angelique [Cabral] mainly on the set, just us and so it created a more intimate vibe, and honestly, I think, more efficient vibe. Because you don't have people walking in and out of the room. It was like a pressure cooker. But having done season one, we could do season two, had we not done season one? I'm sure we could have pulled it off, but it would have been a lot more of an endeavor.
On How This Season Takes The Show Further
disappointment: You mentioned the intimacy, I really felt this in the new season, how it kind of expands upon these themes that are very tender themes like mental health, generational trauma. Why do you think it's important for these themes to be discussed in projects like this?
Salazar: Catharsis. That's why it's important: catharsis. Very plainly put, to tell other people that you are not alone, that this is a human condition. And we take it a step further and say, even if you could go back in time, yesterday, last month, three years ago, all the way back to, let's say, my father's father's father, an indigenous man in Peru, and you could go all the way back, the same problems would persist. It is a human condition, no matter how far back, no matter the context, no matter the time period. It's important to remind people that we're human, that we're fallible, that we have secrets, that we make decisions, that we make choices and our choices, whether the intention is good, or what have you, those are choices that are made for a reason. And I think it's important to talk about things like choices because people spend a lot of time and regret, and shame and guilt. And I think it's important to highlight that we're all just doing our damn best out here. And when we talk about things like mental illness, I think it's incredibly important. Look at the way we talk about Kanye West. Look at the horrible way we talk about a man who is openly unwell. We call him crazy, we call him insane, then we will turn around call him a genius and the greatest of all time, but then we make fun of him for having very public mental breakdowns. The conversation, I can't believe it, is just beginning around mental health, mental illness, and it's just really, really important that we discuss it in general. I can't believe it still has a taboo around it when most of us suffer. And I think it's important to show a character like this, who is mixed race, who is a woman dealing with some sort of behavioral illness. I mean, we're still on the fence, right? Is she unwell or does she have shamanic abilities? We're still asking that question and to me, in my opinion, It's somewhere in the middle, like it's a combination of the two. I love that Undone forces these questions. Maybe you can't have one without the other. We talk about Kanye again. Maybe you can't have this genius without some level of like, if you can perceive so much more, if you can see more and feel more, then wouldn't that lend itself to a creative brain? Or can we be well and still have this magic? And I think we're still scratching the surface of that question, not even the answer in Undone. And that's what I love about it. And that's why it's so important, because it really isn't about answering the question. It isn't really isn't about being like, "And this is mental illness, educationally." It's more about being curious.
disappointment: So for season two, you also served as a producer on Undone. What kind of inspired you to take this step into being a producer in addition to starring in the show for the second season?
Salazar: Well, I think speaking of representation, I think it's incredibly important when you have a Latin female lead of a show going into its second season, knowing all of the work that you already put in as the lead of a show, to get recognition for that was a huge boon for me. And also just mad respect for Amazon, mad respect for Tornante, and all of the producers in the team for recognizing the hard work that leads of a show do. I mean, you are the anchor to the ship, and as a lead, you are already doing so much. So it was a big, big sign of respect from Amazon, and I can't thank them enough for recognizing that work and for really putting their money where their mouth is, and being like, here's someone we absolutely respect, who does great work for us. I do go above and beyond and they're like, "And you should be recognized for that." So it was really Amazon who did that. I may be freelance as an actor, but I'm not someone who just rocks into work and is like, "Hey, what's up," like, I really throw my entire self and body into it. And so that was really Amazon, recognizing that and saying, "You deserve this." And it's incredibly important to, to represent that. this is totally off, you know, topic, but when I was watching Only Murders in the Building, to see executive producer Selena Gomez made me cry every time. I mean, it's incredibly important. And it affects me and I'm in this business working at a high level and when I see that, I get really inspired.
Season 2 of Undone streams on Amazon Prime beginning April 29.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Filmmaker Riley Stearns’s follow-up to the critically-acclaimed dark comedy The Art of Self-Defense, the sci-fi comedy Dual debuted at this year’s Sundance film festival. It stars Karen Gillan as a woman who has a double made of herself when she is diagnosed with a terminal illness, only for her to make a miraculous recovery and have to fight her clone in a duel to the death to determine which of them gets to continue to live.
New Zealander actor Beulah Koale (Hawaii Five-O) co-stars in the film as the boyfriend of Gillan’s characters, getting some unexpectedly hilarious moments to play with. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to talk with Koale about his role in the film and what he would do if he found himself in Stearns’s uncanny sci-fi world.
On What Drew Him to Dual
disappointment: So Dual is your first major foray into the sci-fi genre. I mean, you could kind of count Shadow in the Cloud, but that's set more in the past, versus this is like in the near future. What drew you to the sci-fi genre?
Koale: What drew me is mainly fear. Because I'm not very comfortable in that genre, or comedy genre as well. So yeah, when I'm scared of something, I always run towards it. It's a rule that I have for myself. So that's what initially drew me to work towards it. And then seeing that Riley [Stearns] was doing it and seeing his films from before, I was super attracted to that. I wanted to work with him because he has a very particular way of seeing the world through his eyes and only he can do it. That style that Riley has, it's very Riley Stearns, it was a challenge in itself. A great challenge
disappointment: You mentioned how it's also a deadpan comedy. What do you think was the challenge and also the reward of dealing with this deadpan style of humor in the script?
Koale: Yeah, it is both a challenge and reward because it's kinda like walking into a new dojo, turning up to the Master's house and learning a new technique. And the tricks that I learned from the other directors don't really work here — it doesn't work at all. And Riley, puts you in a very vulnerable place. Because you think you have it all figured out, then you turn up to this and you're like, "Nah, man, none of those tricks work. Just say the words and connect with the other actor." And it was such a great experience, just being in that vulnerable spot. Every time he called cut, I wouldn't know how to feel. Like I felt like it went well. But then I also didn't know because I wasn't used to it, so I just looked over to the monitor and was like, "Was that it?" And Riley would be like "Perfect. That's it," and I was like, "Okay man."
On the World of Dual
disappointment: If you found yourself in a situation where you were terminally ill, would you want to have a double of yourself?
Koale: I probably wouldn't. Because I feel like I'd suffer from a very severe case of FOMO, even if I'm dead. Like, imagine being on your deathbed looking up and your family standing over you crying while your clone is standing there behind you like, "Yeah, come on, buddy. Can't wait for you to go." It would be weird.
disappointment: But say that you did make a miraculous recovery like Karen Gillan's character does in the film, and you had to do a duel to the death. What weapon do you think you would choose?
Koale: I would love to just like fight him with my bare hands. Fight myself, and just be like, "Alright, buddy, let's just stand in the middle of the field and see who wins." You know, that would be my most preferred option. I think the audience would love it. Like, isn't it crazy in that world, that's just like another Saturday night football match? You know, just like everyone's in the audience, "Oh, here we go. Another fight to the death. Let's see how it goes." I feel like I would bring some excitement. You know, we're using no weapons and just see who wins in the end?
disappointment: Yeah, I think that would be fun in a kind-of macabre way.
Koale: Yeah, it's pretty dark. [He laughs.]
On Making Dual
disappointment: You co-star in the film with Karen Gillan, who's obviously great in the film, but she's basically giving two distinct performances. What was it like acting alongside someone who was doing that, with two sides?
Koale: Yeah, for me, it was very easy because I just had to act against what felt like two different people. For Karen. It was great to like, being on the outside watching her trying to figure it out. Because when she was acting opposite herself, she had to know how she was going to react to herself. So she had to have it pre-planned. So it was very interesting watching from the outside, watching Karen figure this out and logistically work it all out. But, man, I just love acting. So it just meant I got to have twice the fun in one film.
disappointment: So what would you say was your favorite scene that you had in the film?
Koale: The favorite scene for me personally from the film is definitely that Aaron Paul and Karen Gillan dance-off. When they do that little dance routine, that destroys me every time. Favorite one to shoot... There's a particular scene where me and Karen are sitting down at a diner and I'm apologizing to her, you know, for kind of taking sides of the other Sarah. And in the background, you see the trees going. And we didn't have a wind machine, but when all the chaos in the words, and what's happening, in the subtext, you see the trees just start going crazy in the background, and I was like, "Whoa, that's art. That's why I do this job right there when you get those magic moments.”
disappointment: I think that one of my favorite scenes that you had in the film was the scene after you are with Sarah's double at Sarah's mom's house and then you guys go outside and have that argument. How many takes did it take for you to nail the inflection joke?
Koale: It took me a couple, man. It took me a couple of takes because, you know, I didn't know how to do it. And Riley was kind of like, teaching us and I was like, "Just say it how you want it to be said, dude." And you know, I can't do exactly what Riley does, because I'm me as well. So it did take me a couple. But I know that line, it always gets me, "She says, 'Peter,' [higher] and you say 'Peter,' [lower]," It kills you because it's true as well. You know, when someone says your name in a particular way, it hits you differently. Like, "I liked that. I liked the way you say my name."
disappointment: This film as a whole is definitely a lot less serious than a lot of other films and shows that you have appeared in the past. Did you approach this differently than some of your more serious performances?
Koale: I approach all films exactly the same with a clean slate, and then I figure it out from when I start prepping. And yeah, this film in particular, I had to put a lot of trust in Riley because he knew what he wanted. So I trusted that the advice he was giving me was what was right for the film, which, you know, was right because the thing went to Sundance and it's a great film. And if anything, I took away a new bag of tricks for myself. And you know, I enjoy this comedy deadpan world, you know. I was scared of it initially, but now, I hope to do more of it. Because there's so much more that you can find in comedy, that type of comedy that you can hide things under and I feel more vulnerable and doing comedy sci-fi than doing a drama in a weird way.
Dual is now in theaters and streams on AMC+ beginning May 20.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Nadav Lapid’s films play an interesting balancing act: impassioned yet not excessively overt, artistic but not inaccessible, and political while still being thoroughly empathetic. He truly is one of the best, most personal filmmakers working today, and his latest film, Ahed’s Knee, is one of his angriest and most intimate yet. We at disappointment media had the opportunity to talk with Lapid about his film and style. Check out the interview below!
On Ahed's Knee
disappointment media: What stood out to you about Ahed Tamini’s story as the perfect bookends for this story?
Nadav Lapid: I thought that you see so many movies about poets and you never hear their poems and painters and you never see their paintings and I thought it an interesting way, you know, to get to know the essence of this guy, the film director, by casting scene for project, a film that probably will never be shot. There's something in the Ahed Tamini case you know, that is really kind of the meeting point between something that, on one hand is extremely concrete and political and relevant and something that comes from the here and now, and on the other hand, you know, there's something about Ahed Tamini that I told myself that if she would have lived in the I don't know, in the 15th century, it would have become like, I think, extremely desirable topic for painters like Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael and whoever, because because there was something so iconic about it, something majestic about it. If you freeze this video, seeing her facing the armed soldier, you dive in a second into the world of myths and legends and something that goes beyond a village in the West Bank and Israeli occupation. It's kind of a meeting point between liberty of speech, the Government of Israel, you know. And then the movie ends with the Earth seen from the sky, something that looks at the history of mankind, at human fate, human destiny, the state of the human. Something that is all the time in the extreme close up and extreme long shot.
disappointment: So obviously, the film says a lot about censorship. Why are you especially interested in the topic of censorship in Israel?
Lapid: First of all, I don't know if I'm especially passionate about the topic of censorship. I'm sure that I'm especially passionate, or that I'm eager to dig inside this material that I identify as the Israeli collective soul or as the DNA of this society. And all sorts of angles, you know, and censorship is one of them. I think that in my previous movies, there was all the time this verbal obsession, the place of words, and in a way, this desire to say things as they are, to name things by their true names. And this belief that by naming something, you can redeem it, or you can save it, or you can redeem yourself, or you can change the course of things, etc. And I think that there's something in this act of censorship, I mean, especially the way that it's in the movie. I mean, actually, they tell him, "You can use only the words that we give you. The words that you want to use, you can't use them. You can use only the words that you don't want to use. And of these words, you can say whatever you want, but we are going to give you the bank of words." And in a way, his project is trying to crush it, to reject it exactly by using his words and by using all the words. His obsession for details, for saying everything, I think it's really based on this anti-censorship thing, on saying everything excessively, or this feeling that only saying everything can tell the thing as it is.
disappointment: I thought that it was really interesting in the film that neither of the main characters was really a hero, and neither was really a villain. It's kind of a lot more complex than that. Can you kind of speak to that?
Lapid: Yeah, I think first of all, that in a way, sick societies give you only bad choices. I mean, it's a little bit like in this fable that he's telling about the military service, the torture victim, and the one who observed from a distance. In a way one can't tell if he was this one, this one because one can guess that, at the end, we are all composed of all these aspects. So, in a limited similar way in the movie, you know, you have only bad choices. You can make the noble choice, to be the one who resists, the one who fights, the one who rejects, the one who is opposed. But then, you know, you think about it humanly, you do it for one year, two years, 10 years, 20 years, your entire life, just at the moment, of course, you start to reject everything. I mean fighting all your life against monsters then turns in your head, everyone to a monster and then yourself, you become a monster. You have the feeling that everyone is an enemy, that everyone is hostile, and you lose very quickly the basic human empathy towards the other, the basic human connection. So being for too long right, feeling that all the others are wrong, can easily turn you into a terrible person. And it makes you exhausted and it makes you impatient and aggressive. And at the end, in a way, you're sick, or you get exactly the same diseases that you're trying to heal. So this is one choice and the other choice is to be positive, you know, to believe that you can change things, to believe in the people, to be enthusiastic, to believe that you can work inside the system, to be vividly devoted, like this girl, you know, full with energy, devoted so much to her vision of spreading art. The only thing that she has to sign is the small agreement with the devil. She can do whatever she wants, she just has to make people sign these forms. And she just should turn her eyes when she's doing something that deep inside she knows is wrong. So that's why in a way you can be the human kind and nice collaborator or the arrogant and aggressive and hostile resistant. Both in a way, are bad choices.
On Making Films in Today's Climate
disappointment: So you mentioned part of the film is about spreading art to and culture to remote areas that otherwise wouldn't get to see this type of challenging art. How do you think that people can help bring this type of challenging art to those people who wouldn't be exposed to it?
Lapid: My movies, I don't know if they are complicated, but I always want to believe that they are not snobbish. I mean, they are not snobbish because I think that, you know, snobbish filmmakers, they put intention in leaving all sorts of barriers, in order that only a very narrow club could get in. A little bit like a fancy party in Cannes, you know. I truly believe that my movies are aimed at each and every human being, because they talk in a way about each and every human being and about things that are inside all of us. Of course, I use formal tools and strategies that maybe are not very recurrent in most movies. But you know, I mean, sometimes you feel that today, the worst thing they can say about your movie is that it's extremely original. But I would say I don't understand filmmakers who don't like adventures, who don't like cinematic adventures, And even more, I can't understand filmmakers who invest time and energy in developing the script and working with the actors, but don't look for their own form. The special form of their movie. For me, it's as if you write the most intimate and personal love letter or suicide letter, and you find the form on Google. So I tend to believe that these singular formalistic elements of my movies, turn them at the end more communicative because I think they turn them less objective, less cold, and more true and personal. But of course, you know that in a universe, where people are inundated by a kind of formatted art, every difference is a barrier, is an obstacle. And talking now a little bit about the sociology of art, I think there is this middle class that once felt obliged to know the key authors and the key pieces of art in a lot of domains, but let's say in cinema, whether they like them more or like them less but but it was a part of, of almost of being a member in a certain circle of society. Today, a lot of this middle class became totally indifferent to cinema, especially to everything that is in any way demanding. I don't know, maybe they like restaurants. But it's not like you know, I have magical solutions. I mean, Godard once called himself a successful director of unsuccessful movies. The only thing I can do is to try to keep on talking in the most honest way I know about existence and to hope that there will be as many people as possible, that it will really count that what I do is really count for them. I also think that we tend to count numbers, numbers of spectators, numbers of tickets. Okay, which is a certain criteria, but people ignore parallel criteria, which is to which extent people were shaken at what they saw, which was important. If 1000 people fill the theater to watch your movie, and 100 hated it, but 900 out of them thought the movie was really nice and will totally forget it when they get to the parking lot. So according to certain criterias it's great, because you filled the theater, but what exactly does it mean? I do feel that, you know, beyond numbers, there is our group of people that this cinema talks to in a very intimate way.
disappointment: So, the politics in your films are definitely very nuanced. I mean, you have this complex relationship with Israel in your films where it is critical of them, but it's also a love letter to Israel in some ways. How do you think this has evolved through your filmography?
Lapid: I think it became more and more frontal and naked, in a way. I mean, they don't have the desire or the energy to faint. And to use all sorts of formulas, and something very raw, very frontal, and very direct. They need less and less detours. I have less and less patience for this round, elaborated script that will give you the excuse to get to a certain point and I'm more and more fascinated by the cinematic gestures that contain the truth inside it. And this is also on the political aspect. Afterwards of course, in a way more frontal, more brutal, more direct, strangely enough it becomes complex because it also exposes its opposite. I mean, you know, when you shout and curse with so much enthusiasm, of course, you also reveal a huge intimacy.
Ahed’s Knee is now playing in theaters.
Interview by Sean Boelman
There is no doubt that Halo is one of the most beloved video game franchises ever. As a result, the new series, which debuts on Paramount+ on March 24, was one of the hottest streaming prospects of the year. Made with fans in mind but also accessible to those who don't have any experience playing the games, it's a sci-fi epic for the ages, and something that viewers are going to want to stream week after week.
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to interview the cast of the series timed to its premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. First, we speak with actor Pablo Schreiber, who plays the series's iconic protagonist Master Chief, about the tremendous responsibility it was to take on the mantle. We also got to speak with newcomer Yerin Ha, who plays original character Quan Ah, and Jen Taylor, who reprises her voice acting role as Cortana (albeit in live action), about how they hope their characters can inspire young women who watch the show.
Check out the interview below and be sure to watch Halo, streaming on Paramount+ beginning March 24.
Interview by Dan Skip Allen
It's always interesting to see a character that is predominantly known for being a character actor step into the leading role, and the extremely talented Clifton Collins Jr. gets that opportunity with the horse racing film Jockey. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to talk with Collins Jr. about the film and his role, including what he did to prepare for the film and his relationship with the cast and crew. Check out the interview at the link below!
On Preparing for the Role
disappointment media: Jockeys notoriously have a very rigorous training routine prior to their races, did you have a special routine you had to do to prepare for this challenging role?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah, I was constantly doing calisthenics and similar workouts, what they were doing. In conjunction with that strict diet, that's probably not conducive to the type of workouts I was doing. But it did help me to get down to 143 pretty quickly.
disappointment: Yeah, I bet that couldn't have been easy.
Collins Jr.: No. [He laughs.]
disappointment: How much experience did you have with with riding horses prior to working on this film?
Collins Jr.: Quite a bit. But that was mostly on rodeo horses through Westworld. And I had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest horse wranglers that the industry has to offer. And those horses you know, you can run with them like you would drive a Porsche there's so accurate in like a precision sense. But the thoroughbreds are very, very different. They're like the dragsters of the horse world. So they're not going to be doing all the maneuvering that you can do on a rodeo horse on Westworld. These horses, you just hope to nudge a little to the left a little to the right. Maybe slow 'em a smidge, or let him go to go to the front of the line and hopefully take the win. And you're not sitting on the saddle, neither. You're up and you're you're leaning on the shoulders, you're leaning forward back, and you're in sync with the horse like a band member would be. But it's it's a life and death thing as well, in addition to a rush.
disappointment: This is definitely a very intimate, emotional role. Did you approach this differently from some of the other characters you've played in the past?
Collins Jr.: No. And I was fortunate enough to have a previous working experience with Greg Kwedar directing Transpecos and Clint Bentley producing. So there is a beautiful shorthand that was developed as a result of us collaborating together. And this one, the three of us very closely worked in really developing this, and then once Molly and Moises came to set a week early, we were able to get whatever intel that they were bringing to it as well because they were spending their own time with the trainer and with the the jockeys. But I was with the jockeys every single day, two weeks before we started shooting.
disappointment: One of the most interesting things about the film as the father-son dynamic, how did you
approach this part of the story?
Collins Jr.: Oh, very tenderly and painfully. I've got a past working relationship with Moises. We did a film called The Perfect Game. And there was five kids there that I mentored that I'm still fairly close to today, except now they're grown ass men. So it was fantastic to work with Moises and watch and become this young, cultured thespian. But you know, he has turned into an adult. So I had to like kind of like give him a heads up, "Yep, I am still an idiot, the same idiot you worked with last time. Obviously, you know, I'm gonna bring it. I'm gonna be here for you. Whenever you need me, you got access to me 24/7." So there was an element of trust there. But it was so painful too. So we explored a lot together. We went through a lot of the stuff. You know, sometimes Greg and Clint would be there in the room with me, then sometimes they wouldn't. But Moises and I, and also Molly and myself would also spend quite an amount of time in my room going through scenes and exploring the emotions and you know, what's really happening to hopefully evolve it because it was constantly evolving as we were shooting.
disappointment: One of the most impressive things about your performance is how you were able to capture some of the small mannerisms that jockeys have. How did you work to perfect those?
Collins Jr.: Honestly, it was really just sticking around. Just being in the jockeys' room because I was there all the time. I cut off my ties from L.A. so that I could just be completely consumed with that world. You know, so if I found out they're gonna watch a movie or this or that. You know, sometimes we go off and watch a movie that's out of the box. It's got nothing to do with jockey being a horse rider or any of that stuff. So I would shy away from that because if I can double dip and steal more for more of what was useful for the film and the role, I would do that. But it was really as a result of being with them and speaking to some of the retired jockeys as well. You know, I got to find out how they retired, why they retired. Did they retire on their own? Were they forced into it? You know, because a lot of these guys, they get paralyzed or injured or maimed. And then they may, they can still walk, and they have their facilities more or less, but they can't ride. They love it so much, they'll become an agent, or they'll become a trainer or all these other things. So, you know, picking their brains and that kind of stuff.
disappointment: You've worked with Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar before. How did that relationship progress
with this film?
Collins Jr.: It progressed in such a way that we can't wait to do our third film together. You know, there's a certain magic that happens when the three of us are working together, and you take any one of us out of the equation, it's just, it's not the same. So we developed a shorthand on Transpecos. You know, we maintained a friendship throughout the years. And they approached me for this one and they knew that I was going to want to jump in, they knew I was going to carry gear all those days we needed extra hands and help, and I want to be a team player. So it's a beautiful thing to have a filmmaker and a producer, two artists who belive you in such a way, and lean on you and use you that way. Because you're all leaning on each other. You can't make a movie by yourself, especially on this level. And that intimacy is beautiful, it's a family unit when you're making a movie.
Jockey hits theaters on December 29.
Interview by Dan Skip Allen
Jockey debuted at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for a release in the thick of awards season. And while the sports genre is known for its saccharine crowd-pleasers, Clint Bentley's film takes a unique approach, both narratively and stylistically. We at disappointment media got the chance to talk with the film's director, Clint Bentley about his approach to making this film. Check out the interview below!
On Telling the Film's Story
disappointment media: What about the sport of horse racing stood out to as something you wanted to make a film about?
Clint Bentley: Actually, my dad was a jockey, and so I grew up in the world of horse racing, and I grew up behind the barns. And it really, it didn't seem that weird as a kid, because I had just grown up in it. But then, when I got a little older and became a filmmaker, I realized just what a strange, interesting kind of carnie life they lead, specifically jockeys and how I hadn't seen that really on film. And so I wanted to portray that.
disappointment: Aging is a big part of a lot of people's lives. But how important was it to use this angle as part of Jackson Silva's life and struggles?
Bentley: Yeah, it became something that my co-writer and co-producer Greg Kwedar and I were working on the script. And early on, the script was about a younger jockey. And Jackson was a supporting character in those earlier ideas of the movie. But then, he really hit on the idea that what Jackson is going through as a character, in this kind of aging out but not being ready to go and being used up but still having a lot of passion for this world is very similar to what the sport of horse racing is going through in general. And it kind of acts as a perfect metaphor for it. So we just leaned into that.
On the Film's Unique Style
disappointment: The racing scenes are definitely unique within the genre of sports movies. What did you do to create the visual style in these portions of the film?
Bentley: Yeah, as I was doing doing early directing prep, I took all of the horse racing movies, and I pulled their races out. And then I cut them up in an editing program, in Premiere, to see like, "Okay, what was their shot selection in making these?" And what I found was like, they were all shot and cut exactly the same. And I couldn't tell once I got them all pulled apart and started putting them together, I couldn't tell which movie was this even from. And I just think that's because like, they only go one direction and there's only so many ways you can shoot it. But then once I got to a place where we were actually making the film, we didn't have much money, we had a very small crew. There wasn't really a way to safely do, even if I wanted to do a big race scene, there wasn't a way to safely do it. And so, you know, I really worked closely with Adolpho Veloso, my cinematographer, and we just tried to figure out, "Okay, if we can't do this and make it feel big in the way that we would normally see a race, how can we do in an interesting way?" And locking it close in on Jackson's perspective just fit the story. And so we were doing all sorts of these little tricks throughout, just to use our limitations to our advantage. And it helped to be on a live working racetrack where races were happening all the time. And we could just film our actors around it, you know?
disappointment: The score by Aaron and Bryce Dresner is excellent. How did you work with them to create a sound for the film?
Bentley: Greg and I had worked with them on our first film, Transpecos. And so we had a bit of a personal history there and a connection. And then when it came time to do this one, I really wanted a score that, like the movie, it had to kind of walk a tightrope where it I wanted it to be big and emotive, but not too big and kind of saccharin. But then be atmospheric but also not too slight. And Aaron and Bryce are just brilliant. They're brilliant composers. And once we kind of talked about the feelings that I wanted to get across with with not only the movie, but each scene, they just really ran with it and created something really beautiful. And also, they created in a way that was very scrappy, kind of like the way we shot the movie.
On Realism in Cinema
disappointment: One of my favorite scenes in the film is the therapy session, how did you get the guys in the
scene to tell such realistic stories?
Bentley: Yeah, I love that scene, too. It's funny, there's such a oral history tradition, for lack of a better word, in that world of, they're always just sitting around telling stories because there's so much downtime between between their work. But the ideation of it was that I wanted to get certain things across about the world, and certain information that you just could never put into dialogue, because it would sound so cheesy. But as soon as you let them say it in their own words, they say it beautifully, and get so much more across than Greg or I ever could by writing it. And so that was just a case of just putting them in a room together, getting them comfortable, and they opened up. They opened up beautifully. And we had been there a couple of weeks by that point, so they they had our trust, that we weren't going to abuse that trust.
disappointment: Jockey offers an intimate and realistic look at the horse training world and you yourself have some personal experience in that industry. Why did you really want to emphasize on the realism of this world?
Bentley: I think partly, it's just my sensibilities as a filmmaker. And the kind of stories that I want to tell and the way I want to move to feel. And so, you know, just in general, that was my inclination. But then also, just in terms of this world, we had seen horse racing movies so many times that were that were kind of glamorized and Disney-ized. And not that those are bad things, but that that's just the representation we had seen. And I really wanted to just give a very realistic portrayal of it with with all of its beauty, but also all of its warts as well.
Jockey hits theaters on December 31.
Interview by Sean Boelman
When one thinks of the most legendary character actors working today, the name Udo Kier should immediately come to mind. Boasting an impressively large and diverse filmography, Kier is just as known for his off-the-wall and crazy bit parts as he is for his supporting roles in films by auteurs such as Lars von Trier and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
His newest role, in Carlson Young’s twisted Alice in Wonderland-like fantasy The Blazing World, sees him more in the former category as this film’s White Rabbit. We at disappointment media had the opportunity to sit down with the iconic actor and have a conversation about the role in the film, in addition to his career as a whole. Check out the interview below!
disappointment media: You currently have 270 credits and counting on your resume. How do you keep up such an impressive output?
Udo Kier: Well, modern technology knows more about me than I do. I don't count my films. And when I talk to journalists, they always say, "It's almost 300 films," and I say, "Yes, 100 films are bad, 50 films you can watch with some good wine, and 50 films are good." And, you know, I think I did only with Lars von Trier, I did 10 films or 12, Fassbinder, and all. So there are good films, but, you know, as an actor, unless it's a director like David Lynch, you know, I'm a very lucky man, that I work with many people like Wim Wenders, like Werner Herzog, like Lars von Trier, they cannot make a bad film. They can only make a film people don't like, but it doesn't mean that it's a bad film. But there are directors who will tell you wonderful stories. And then you start working with them. And you feel something is not in my direction, and then you still have to make the film. And there are films I did I have never seen because I didn't have a good time making it. So why should I go and depress myself in the theater? So you never know.
disappointment: So you mentioned that you've worked with many accomplished filmmakers, but you also leave time for up and coming filmmakers like Carlson Young of The Blazing World. What do you like about working with new talent like this?
Kier: Because they have talent. You see, I myself, I have never been to acting school. And I became a professor. And the thing that I say to my students, when we had a speech, I always said, "Talent is something you cannot learn. You can learn a technique, but you cannot learn talent," which is true, then it comes to question about his style, how much you want. When Carson sent me the script, and the producer, I said, "Okay, I read it twice." You see, when I get a script, I read first my role only. And if it's interesting, then I read the whole script with my role in it. And if I'm not necessary to be there, it doesn't change the story, why should I be in the movie? So I read it twice. I liked it. And I said, "Let's meet." And we talked and spent the afternoon together, she came with the producer. And I liked her, I liked her energy. And I understood very quickly that she was not really out to make a short film, which she did, but she got her attention. People saw it, and then she found the money to make the feature film, which she had planned all the time. She hadn't planned to make a short film and then was a success, and made a feature film. So I liked her. The same thing happened to me with Todd Stephens for Swan Song. I read, he came here. We talked one afternoon, and we had details, and I made the film. So talent, I like because I know from the past, in more than 50 years, the internet knows more than I do about my life. I must say I prefer independent films. I mean, I made Blade, I made Armageddon. Imagine if I would have gone to the director and would have said, "I have an idea." They would have said "What? You have a script? What idea?" But when you are making independent films, you become as an actor, you become part of the creation also. And Blazing World it was like, I know it was fantasy and she chose me to be her fantasy. That was really a compliment, she could have asked a lot of actors. But she wanted me to be cast standing by the water, just go with my finger, "Come, come." And I liked when I went there, what was very important, I hadn't made any films because of the virus. And they guaranteed me it was 100% safe, which it was. Not 100%, let's say 90. But I went there to Texas. They tested me, I had to wait till the next morning, there was a property, a farm where everybody was staying. The food came three times a day, nobody was allowed to leave. And everybody was living there. And we made the film. And she was amazing. A young, delicate, young girl able to write, direct, star in it, and be there and listen to the actors and she's very, very creative. And that's why I'm very happy that I did the movie because she's very talented.
disappointment: You mentioned how some of your scenes in The Blazing World don't have much dialogue. What is either the challenge or the reward in acting scenes like this?
Kier: Well, you're making me a compliment, of course, I have enough possibilities to express myself without text. Text is just there to undermine something. You know, you can say, "Oh, I'm hungry." As you can also say, "Ahh, ahh, food! Food!" You know you can have your fantasy to go either direction. I don't need text as much. It's like Lars von Trier tells everybody, "Don't act." I mean, I made films with Lars where we had our self service table with Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzara, James Caan, Nicole Kidman, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgård, and Lars comes up to us and says, "And don't forget, don't act." You see, it is like you don't need text. Sometimes actors they love text, I won't mention any names, and start with the back to the camera by the chimney and then they'll turn a little round and talk to the floor. And finally they come up and I always call them another Oscar speech.
disappointment: So what is different in your approach of how you act in certain arthouse dramas like what you've done with Lars von Trier versus fantasy movies like The Blazing World?
Kier: I prefer, of course, the fantasy because I can use my fantasy. If some director like Lars, a great director and friend, I'm the godfather of his first child and we made our first movie several years ago, but I know he doesn't like us to act. To do a drama. We just be there and have a good script and a good situation and we talk. But personally, when I did John Carpenter's film, you know and opened my stomach at the end and put my insides into the projector, like a sausage factory. I like that. Because it's so ridiculous. But you know, I don't play as ridiculous. And I don't think it's ridiculous. I think it's, you know, a person with a special mind.
disappointment: So you mentioned a bit earlier how you like to take these roles that are pivotal, but small? How do you make these turns so memorable?
Kier: Because the way I talk. You know, I always say, there is a way when you play a killer, you have a gun, and then you look at your partner, shoot. But I wouldn't do that. I prefer, if the director allows it, that the gun is in front of me. And I clean my fingernails and I say, "When I'm done, I'm going to kill you. Are you happy with your hair?" BANG! And people say, "That was evil!" To kill somebody is evil one way or the other. So now it's like, I read the roles. I mean, I in Johnny Mnemoic played the boss of Keanu Reeves, Ralfi. And, you know, then the Chinese people come and kill me. When you play, in short roles or small roles, not long on screen, it's very hard to keep the memory. For example, now with Swan Song, my life has changed. To get a page in the New York Times, writing, "On top after 50 years, Udo Kier finally becomes a leading man." And I was thinking, "Were they right? I made so many movies," but I had never been a lead in America. I had the lead in Germany with Dracula and Frankenstein, but never in an American production. And I was thinking why? And I know why. Because the people start with you and follow you till the end. Yeah, when I showed Swan Song, I hope people can tell me "Oh, you made us cry, you made us laugh," because they follow the personality. Or you have fantasy roles, like in The Blazing World, which are totally crazy. And he sings a song, "There are three keys. You have to open each one. But I'll tell you, they're not as nice to you as I am." You know, it's fun. And that's why when I do even commercial movies like Blade, that my teeth are going to be pulled out and I'm going to be exploding in the sun. And I said, "Great! What a great way of leaving a movie." So it's as always, I look for something interesting. I wouldn't do a movie where it's a boring part. I wouldn't do that. Never. Because especially now I'm getting older. Next week is my birthday. 77. Lucky number. I'm born on the 14th of October, two times seven is 14. So and, you know at the moment, I'm in Hunters, with Al Pacino, in eight episodes, I'm in six, and I'm still working on it. I'm flying next week to Prague to shoot three weeks and then I'm done. And so there you have it.
disappointment: Well thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed speaking with you and I can't wait to see 270 more movies from you!
Kier: I know that's not going to happen, but I'm looking, because time is money, and time is to sin. I'm looking for something now for the next couple of years, which really nobody has seen. I want to, will I be able? I cannot answer that question, but I want to do something amazing. Really amazing.
The Blazing World is now in theaters and on VOD.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi is having quite the year, with two films having toured nearly the entirety of the festival circuit. The first, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, debuted at Berlinale and is an anthology drama centering around the idea of coincidences in relationships. The other, Drive My Car, is adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami and won the best screenplay prize at Cannes. They are two very different but both wonderful films, and we had the pleasure of talking with the director about them. Check out our interview below!
On Drive My Car
disappointment media: What stood out to you about Murakami's writing and this story in particular
Ryusuke Hamaguchi: I can say there are mainly three things. The first one being that there are conversations that are happening inside a car. And I think this is related to the appeal of the characters themselves. These characters often are very internalized in their feelings. But through their conversations, through the time spent in the car, they start to get closer to each other. And I felt that this kind of relationship and the depiction of the relationship makes it easier to turn and adapt into a film. The second reason is a conflict with the character being an actor. And you know acting and performance is a theme that I've always dealt with in a lot of my films, so I felt very attracted to it. The third is the text, the dialogue that Takatsuki has in the original in which he says that in order to know oneself better, you need to face the other person directly. And that text from the original was something that personally moved me and I felt very convinced by that story and to me it was one of the cores of the story and I wanted to directly include it in my film.
disappointment: Even though the film is based on a short story the runtime is nearly three hours How did you find so much depth and detail in the source material?
Hamaguchi: So I think the answer to that question is related again to the characters which are Kafuku and Misaki. I really like both of these characters that are in the original. They're both characters who don't often make their emotions apparent. However, when they do say something about their emotions, it's very honest. And that's something that really struck me about the original. However, in the original story, I felt that where these two characters end up at the end of the story felt incomplete. I wanted to see where they actually do end up. And so when I was thinking about trying to get them to a certain destination, a certain place that felt more complete, it just ended up taking this long.
disappointment: So one of the highlights of Drive My Car is the cast. How did you work with the actors to deliver such emotional performances?
Hamaguchi: I think one major thing here is to choose the right cast to begin with. The performers who played the main characters, Mr. Nishijima and Miss Miura, both of them are wonderful actors. And it was also very delightful to be able to work with wonderful actors who also fit the side characters. I felt that something about the humanity that these casts brought to the character connected a lot with what I was trying to depict. And I think they all personally just gave depth to the characters to begin with. So you know, once I know that I'm working with a wonderful cast, my job I believe is to create an environment where they can all feel safe to perform, I see that as my number one job so that the performers can bring their best. And if I can actually provide that kind of environment, I know that my cast, the performers will do a wonderful job. And in order to create that I tried to have as much time to rehearse. And I believe one of the most important fears or worries that an actor can have is not knowing enough about the characters. And that creates a lot of worry. And so in order to try to get rid of that worry, the two things that I do are readings, but also giving backstory. So in terms of the reading, what we do is we have the actors read the dialogue, the script many times over and over and over without emotion until we get to the point where the dialogue comes out automatically. And once the actors are able to do that, when they're actually performing in front of the camera, they can really look at each other and it makes it easier for them to show emotion and think about other things. And regarding my point about backstory, it's so that I can give past relationships to the characters that are present. What I do is write a very simple script about the backstory. And even though in rehearsals we're just doing the script reading, what we sometimes do is to act out those backstory scripts. And what that allows is to give the roles sort of a memory through that relationship that was caused through those rehearsals of doing the backstories and that way, when they actually are on set and doing the main script, even though they had been reading that dialogue without emotions previously, once they're in front of the camera, they can sort of derive a natural emotion because they have this past memory from acting out the backstory. And I think that allows for a real emotional performance to come through.
On Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
disappointment: What was the challenge of creating a film out of three thematically connected stories?
Hamaguchi: So I would say making these three short stories was actually a rather smooth process. If I were to talk about some challenges, I mean obviously there are challenges to making any film, but the thing about Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is that each production of each story was at a very small scale. And to be working at a small scale meant that it allows for the safety to spend a lot of time to make the film. Which for me also meant that there is more time to rehearse, and so with Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, this isn't necessarily a challenge but what it allowed me to do was to test out what it can mean to have more time to rehearse.
disappointment: So Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy has a humor to it. Why do you think this was important for this film?
Hamaguchi: I'm really grateful that you mentioned humor in my films, mainly because I'm always thinking about humor to be part of my films. But I think the fact that the theme of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is coincidence really allows and makes room for humor to enter the work. Working with this idea of coincidence is a really strange existence within this framework of storytelling, mainly because coincidence itself exists outside of the logic of cause and effect, in some ways, is this very alien thing that is suddenly appearing into the story. And it has the power and the ability to change where the direction of the story is going. It can suddenly swerve the direction of the story. And I think that can actually lead to humor in itself. But when working with coincidences, I think it's not possible to just do that, because I feel like it's more because then the audience to the audience coincidences can be a reason for something to seem quite unbelievable. However, the Japanese title of this film is directly translated to be "Coincidence and Imagination". And so I had the title include coincidence, and I think that allows for the audience to be more open and accepting of the fact that coincidences will happen in the story. And again, I think this really also leads to a humorous element.
disappointment: So the second episode discusses the idea of story structure which is something that the film as a whole experiments with. Why do you like subverting expectations for storytelling?
Hamaguchi: Doing this where I have three different stories but then turning it into one film was a challenge in itself but also joyous at the same time. And I thought it was okay to have three very different stories, but I did want people to also come out of the theater feeling that they watched one film. So in that sense, I was very aware about the structure of the film in its entirety. In terms of the first story, I kind of saw it as an entry point. So the first story has a very understandable, very simple triangular relationship structure that's there. I would say maybe the end of the first story is the most ambiguous out of the three. That said, with the second and third stories, I was sort of pushing on the idea of testing out this idea of coincidence further in both the second and the third film, Regarding the second film, coincidence ends up bringing on a very bad result for the characters on the in the third film, however, the coincidence leads to a happy incident, happy feelings. And so if I had flipped that order of what you come out of with the two stories, I felt that the audience would be coming out of the theater feeling quite disgruntled. And I really wanted the audience to come out of the film feeling something happy.
Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy are screening at the 2021 New York Film Festival. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy opens in theaters on October 15 and Drive My Car opens in theaters on November 24.