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
Do you feel that the movie justifies revenge killing?
I think people have to make up their own minds, but it’s kind of “What if?” [What] if you’re at a bus stop and someone drives by in a BMW and splatters you with melted snow. Part of you would love to jump on the back of that car, kick your way in, grab the guy by the throat, throw him out in the street and drive away in his car. You’d love to be the person who does that kind of thing. I’m not. Most of us aren’t. But what if you were? What if you allowed that part of yourself to dominate your actions? If you pose moral arguments in film, you shouldn’t give solutions to them. You should allow people to argue them. I liked the brutality of the questions that were asked by this story.
You’ve had your various ups and downs making movies in Hollywood, but it sounds like this was a basically positive experience.
It all has to do with luck, really — more than anyone will ever admit. Everybody starts a project like this saying, “Of course, we want you to make it your own; of course it has to be Neil Jordan’s film.” But it’s always a lie. When push comes to shove, they forget about what they’ve said. But we got lucky here. Once or twice, I did have to say, “If you don’t like the direction in which this is going, tell me and get someone else to do it.” I was doing a deliberate thing with it. It could have been directed by one of these more flashy, younger, video-type directors; the violence could have been less real, more balletic. But I wanted to make it dirty and nasty and real.
At one point in the film, you have Jodie’s character quote D.H. Lawrence’s famous line: “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” How did that come about?
I read that quote years ago and I thought, “Whoa, that’s weird.” It seemed so contemplative somehow. Originally, there was another quote I was going to use: If you go into any New York police station, there’s always a quote from Hemingway that’s printed out and posted in the locker room, which goes, “There is no hunting like the hunting of men, especially armed men, and those who have done this long enough to like it, they never care for anything else thereafter.” The Hemingway estate said we couldn’t use it. At which point, I thought, okay, I’ve got this great D.H. Lawrence quote which isreally savage. I’ll use that instead.
Is there something uniquely American about this story?
I think so. Retributive justice, deciding to kill someone without compunction or pity and stuff like that. It’s in the movie culture too: It’s what Clint Eastwood has played his whole life, really. Lately, he’s begun to examine that characteristic, but he has played those roles. You know, that biblical justification for killing, that certainty that things will end in bloody violence. It all has to do with .?.?. my wife is Canadian and she grew up as a Mennonite, and she was convinced there was no point in planning for anything after the year 2000 because the world was going to end. It’s a Protestant biblical condition.
Were you surprised that Jodie Foster would want to play this role in the first place?
Very. We were shooting up in Spanish Harlem or Washington Heights, and she was there in her tank top and sweating, and I asked her, “Are you not worried about playing this role, where you’ve got a gun in your hand and you’re kicked around in Central Park and you keep getting blood splattered in your face, given John Hinckley and all of that?” I think it’s one of the reasons why she wanted to do the film. She wants to explore those areas of conflict. She wants to put herself in the center of this emotional turmoil. You’ve seen The Accused . . . that rape scene. That’s quite disturbing. What’s odd is the thought of a woman wanting to play that scene. It’s a bit like Marlon Brando in that Arthur Penn movie, The Chase, where he gets the shit beat out of him — and you wonder, why would an actor want to do that? For me, it was fascinating to work with someone who wanted to explore precisely those things.
The two films of yours I was reminded of most watchingThe Brave OnewereMona LisaandThe Company of Wolves, which have a similar sense of somewhat naive characters being pulled into a sinister underworld.
They thought they were in a city but in fact they’re in a dark wood. I don’t know where it comes from, but I know I’m only interested in a story if, at some point, the characters get into a moral landscape they weren’t prepared for. It’s just what I find interesting dramatically. People find themselves in a place where there are no rules, and they have to make them up.