By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Sitting on the beachside terrace at Shutters in Santa Monica, Neil Jordan looks slightly uncomfortable, which could just be the beating of the sun against his pale Irish skin, or the fact that Jordan and Hollywood have historically made for uneasy bedfellows. In the 1980s, fresh from the success ofMona Lisa?, Jordan accepted a major studio's invitation to makeHigh Spirits, a supernatural-themed comedy remembered as more ghastly than ghostly, and found himself banned from the editing room. Next cameWe're No Angels, another studio comedy (starring Sean Penn and Robert De Niro), better than reputation suggests, but a box-office bomb. A decade later, after another of his Irish films,The Crying Game, became an international phenomenon, Jordan embarked on a more fruitful Tinseltown sojourn that led toInterview With a Vampire,Michael Collins and, one of his best films,The Butcher Boy. Now Jordan is again on American shores to promote what he calls a uniquely American story:The Brave One (which opens September 14), a violent, already-controversial vigilante movie starring Jodie Foster as a talk-radio host who becomes an avenging angel on the streets of Manhattan following a violent attack in Central Park.
L.A. WEEKLY:At first glance, Neil Jordan directing a Joel Silver–produced vigilante movie starring Jodie Foster looks like an incongruous grouping of elements. How did you get involved in the project?
NEIL JORDAN:There’s a movie I’ve been trying to make for years called Borgias, about the Borgia family, and I keep getting on the verge of making it and it keeps not happening. I was about to make it yet again — a big independent production, blah, blah, blah — and of course, it fell apart. Then my agent sent me this script. Jodie Foster was attached to it — she gets brutally mugged in New York and becomes a vigilante. I thought, “What?” But when I read it, the story really intrigued me, even though the script was kind of in exploitation territory at that point. What intrigued me was that this woman was doing these crimes and talking about them on the radio. So I read it again, and there was a moment when I totally forgot about the fact that it was a retributive story. Then that scene came where she goes to the police lineup and says that she doesn’t recognize anyone, and I thought, “This is good.”So I came over here and met with Jodie. I said, “Look, I’ll have to make this my own way and make the material go where I want it to go. At the moment, it’s pretty basic.” She said that was what she wanted to do too. Then it became a matter of seeing if (a) Jodie would go to the dark places this movie seemed to want to go to and (b) the studio would let us do that. And luckily, it kind of turned out that way.
There’s a sense in which the film feels like an urban fairy tale of sorts, a journey deeper and deeper into a very disturbing rabbit hole.
Oh, it’s a dark forest with a monster in it. But I didn’t put any unjustified things into the movie — there are no white horses wandering through. What attracted me was that this woman finds this kind of monstrous thing inside her and allows it to grow and to become her. I knew that, morally, the entire story was questionable, but I get tired of everybody being good all the time and everybody wanting to save the world.
One of the bold things about the movie is that it’s remarkably free of judgments — whether what this woman is doing is right or wrong, whether or not she’s taking any satisfaction from it.
I think she is taking satisfaction. People may call it a vigilante movie. I would call it a revenge movie, and perhaps at times I might even call it a serial-killer movie. I think she’s someone who becomes attracted to killing, and that’s what I find fascinating. It’s very forbidden, and it’s obviously very questionable. When we shot the last scene, I thought that I’d never seen anybody in cinema want to kill a person so much as Jodie in that scene. The only comparison I can make is to John Wayne in The Searchers, when he finally gets to Natalie Wood and there’s that line about her being nothing more than the leavings of a Comanche buck. When I saw that as a kid, I was so shocked that any human being could feel that, that these emotions could exist.
There’s a sense in the movie of people living in fear, whether it’s fear of street crime, or war or terrorism.
I think it is about that sense of unease. You know, I’m your traditional European leftie, basically. But I don’t believe anybody knows the territory that they’re in as a person who lives in the West at the moment. Nobody can explain why a doctor in Glasgow set himself on fire in a truck laden with explosives — a sophisticated, Western-educated person. We’re in unknown territory, and people genuinely don’t know what to feel. I think even people who are to the left in the United States are confused, and there’s a lot of fear, a nameless fear. That’s part of what the movie is exploring.