Category Archives: Interviews

JEREMY NORTHAM AND GEMMA JONES ON “THE WINSLOW BOY”






Jeremy Northam and Gemma Jones visited Dallas recently to talk about their work with David Mamet on “The Winslow Boy.” Both admitted to some initial surprise at the choice of material, but came to see the rightness of it.

Northam, well-known to audiences for his work in “The Net,” “Emma,” and “Mimic,” remarked: “Once you look past the surface surprise of it being a period movie and it not being in a contemporary street setting and that the language is not David’s own–he wouldn’t write in this particular style–then it’s not so much of a surprise, because there are connections thematically. I suppose there was surprise as well at the depth of his being moved by the idea of gentility and politeness and good manners and altruism and self-sacrifice that are shown in the story…. But then when you go back to look at the older scripts and films, you can say maybe that sense of justice is what fired his interest in stories which so often deal with a form of corruption and of cunning and gulling and treachery and deception. I think that beneath it all there’s this rock on honor in this story that really appealed to him.” He also noted that it’s perhaps Mamet’s connection to the play’s themes that makes his treatment of it seem “less and less an old warhouse…and much more about ideas of self-sacrifice and altruism and the impossibility in some way of defining what people’s motives are.” Jones, who appeared in “Sense and Sensibility” and “Wilde,” added: “[David’s] very much a man of letters and literature who very much enjoys the craft of writing and loved the way this play was crafted.”

Both stars discussed the restrained acting style required by the piece. “It takes a lot of courage to be that minimalist, because we’re really tempted to show the audience what you mean or what you feel,” Northam remarked. “We just had to trust David that as long as we knew what we felt or what we meant, the camera would pick it up.” He added that the dramatic technique of not directly showing big moments in the plot, but having them related second-hand, was actually beneficial to the performers, because it allows “all possibilities [to be] present” when one’s character reappears. “That gives you the opportunity to hint at a whole set of stories,” he said.

Jones agreed. “My instincts had been at the time to go bigger with it,” she said. “But David always found very good reasons for pulling me back. That was quite scary; I was afraid it was going to come out too bland. But I was very impressed when I saw the film at how clear it was that although the emotional dynamic band might be quite narrow, within it there’s plenty of variety, so you see people’s momentary thoughts and feelings quite clearly.”

The film was shot almost completely in a real period house in London. “There was actually a family living in the house while we were filming, with a very small child,” Jones recalled. “And they were hiding away in rooms at the top of the house, trying to keep their children quiet.” And the actors, conversely, had to keep the noise down when the children were napping. But not a bit of the difficulty can be discerned in the beautifully poised appearance of the final product.

DAVID CRONENBERG, DIRECTOR REGARDING THE MAKING OF “eXistenZ”






It takes dedication and persistence for David Cronenberg to make the intensely personal and idiosyncratic films which have marked his career–pictures that have required him to raise financing outside the studio system, even while he was being offered projects like “Top Gun” and “Flashdance.” In a Dallas interview he remarked that it took him ten years to get “Dead Ringers” made, and another six to mount “Naked Lunch.”

As for “eXistenZ,” the articulate, soft-spoken auteur said, “It was being developed at MGM, so it would have been my first studio movie, if it had actually happened there. But eventually they said they didn’t want to do it because they said it was not ‘linear enough.’ That was their reason. And I suppose that tells you a lot about Hollywood.” So once again he went the independent route.

As to why he was willing to bypass the ease of studio production to make pictures that are uniquely his, Cronenberg explained: “To me all my movies are very personal. Each is kind of like a documentary of what was happening when I was making it…. Movies are my way of talking to myself about everything–about what I think about life, and the human condition, and society and technology and all kinds of things–not forgetting that I am creating a drama, so, as George Bernard Shaw said, conflict is the essence of drama, and it heightens things and illuminates things to make things bang against each other, so the movies are very, in some ways, extreme and edgy and all of that. But nontheless it is exactly the way that I kind of figure things out. And I can see the development, the crystallization of my understanding of things happening [as I make them]. And I think as you get older, if you are really able to personally relate to the movies you’re making, then even your age and experiences in directing will be incorporated into what you’re doing. It’s hard to do that with movies, because it’s such a major [undertaking]. Most directors don’t do it, because they are ‘doing projects.’ For a lot of directors that isn’t even the game–the game is to be a good craftsman and make something really exciting that will make money–which is a fine thing to do. It’s just not exactly the thing that I’m doing.”

Cronenberg admits some concern about the future of the sort of truly
independent, challenging films that he’s committed to making. “The
‘Hollywood film’ is so successful all over the world…that there might
come a day when there is only one kind of film you can see, which is the Hollywood film,” he mused. “Now that would be a bad thing, because Hollywood has a very strong understanding of what moviemaking is, but it’s a very narrow thing–it includes approaches to character, music, cutting, everything–for example, the idea that you have to have a sympathetic character that you identify with, and all of that stuff…. There might come a time, I worry–I have to worry about these things–that I won’t have an audience, that there won’t be an audience that can understand what I’m doing, that they won’t actually even comprehend it, that there’s no way for them to access it. There always will be some people who could do that, but will there be enough to actually get your film financed, to make it financially feasible? That could happen. When I have Jennifer, in this movie, say, ‘The world of games is in a kind of trance; people are programmed to expect so little, but the possibilities are so great,’ I’m talking about Hollywood, about movies. People are educated into only one kind of movie now, and no other kind. And so it is a worry, and I do think about it.”