Matt's Blog

Blog

Interview - Writer-Actor Joel Edgerton Chats About 'Felony'

Joel Edgerton

Felony debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival and is now finally getting a release here in Australia.  I spoke to the writer-star of the film, Joel Edgerton. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.

Matt:  How’s it going?

Joel:  So far, so good.  I’m personally well but we just had the Australian premiere at the closing night of the Melbourne Film Festival so the film is off to a lovely start.

Matt:  Well I know it screened at the Toronto Film Festival last year.  Did you get a different response from the Aussie audience as opposed to what you got overseas?

Joel:  I think I was in no fit state to gauge what the audience response was in Toronto.  The first viewing for any film that I’m involved with is always so terrifying.  The film was very well received in Toronto though.  We got some amazing write ups from the New York Times, Variety and some other publications that made me think that it must have gone down well. 

There was something wonderful about the Melbourne screening the other night because it was a home audience and I could get rid of my initial anxiety and enjoy the film for what it was.  It’s a great film that I’m very proud of.  I felt very lucky.

Matt:  Felony is a film that asks moral questions of a lot of its characters.  Where did the idea come from?  Was there a particular event that inspired it?

Joel:  I remember a particular conversation years ago before I wrote this movie about trying to cast your mind forward into a scenario where you’ve done something wrong and wondering if you would then do the right or wrong thing in the aftermath.  As much as I love to think that I’m a good person, I can’t promise you that I would do the right thing if I was in this character’s shoes until I’ve actually been through that experience.  Thankfully I haven’t and hopefully I won’t.

The real interesting crime in this film is not only does my character hit this child and cause an accident under the influence of alcohol… but in the aftermath he chooses to lie about it.  Being no witnesses, he decides to say that he came across the accident rather than him causing it.  That to me is the part of the film that fascinates me.  What drives humans that we keep reading about in the newspaper doing these hit and run accidents?  What causes us to tell these lies or to choose to run away?  Yes, it’s fear but what are the ramifications for that person and those around them?

Matt:  One part of the film I found particularly intriguing is the accident itself.  We only see things from your perspective and it all happens rather innocuously.  We’re not even sure if it’s the car that veered into the boy or the boy that veered into the car.  The fact that he’s not wearing a helmet and there’s fog on the windscreen adds a further layer.  Did a lot of thought go into shooting it that particular way?

Joel:  Yeah.  We were shooting that scene with the mindset that we wanted to see it from the perspective of three different characters – myself and then the older and younger detective when they arrive.  What’s interesting to me is that I’ve seen movies before where a character kills someone and then runs home and essentially hides under their bed.  What we were looking to do was something more subtle.  Malcolm isn’t sure how intoxicated he is and when he hits the child, it’s just a kind of nudge.  He performs his duty of care and sticks around until there’s an ambulance, which is a good act, but then finds himself wittingly or unwittingly saying that he’s not sure how the child came to harm.  That’s where the real drama starts.  The subtlety is that it’s not a definite action where you go “oh, he’s killed a kid, this is bad.”  There’s more to it than that.

Matt:  It’s a very complex issue – this idea if a good person does a bad thing, is there more room for forgiveness?   It’s a film that asks questions but is there a particular response you’re hoping to see from audiences?  Or are you leaving it open ended and letting people come up with their own conclusions?

Joel:  I want this to be a crowd participation movie.  I joke that in the old days when you leave a kid’s party you used to get a bag of lollies to take home.  There’s something in this movie that I want the discussion to continue after the credits roll.  You bring your moral code and your experience in life up until this point and tell me whether you think this man deserves to go to jail… or whether this man should let his punishment exist in his own conscience. 

There’s also this grand idea in the film that it asks questions about guilt and remorse.  Do they become intensified when you realize that you may be caught or there maybe witnesses?  As Tom’s character says – “is it easier for time and the world to swallow events if you’re not being judged?”  To me, this has been a lament to get to the bottom of something for me which is that I believe the reason people tell lies is because we’re scared of not being liked and loved.  We don’t want people to think that we’re bad.

Matt:  There are so many ways that you can end a story like this.  How easy was it to come up with the finale that we see on screen?

Joel:  I’ve seen so many thrillers in my life and it’s one of my favourite genres and yes, we wanted to make a tense thriller… but in a different way, I didn’t want characters to be running around with guns at the end of this movie.  I wanted it to be a climax of ideas and emotions and yet still feel like great entertainment.  So I knew where I wanted that character to end up. 

Matt:  When you wrote the screenplay, did you always see yourself in the role of Malcolm Toohey?

Joel:  Yeah, it was my way of ensuring that I have a job (laughs).  It was always something that I wanted to explore and that’s why I started writing the screenplay.  Funnily enough, when you see the movie, you’ll realize that the greatest role in the film has been written for Tom Wilkinson.  His character is so interesting and so dangerous and so funny.  He becomes a delectable part of the film. 

Matt:  Well how did you get Tom on board?  He’s such a fantastic actor and I remember him from such films as In The Bedroom and Michael Clayton.

Joel:  He was the person who was most on my mind when I wrote the film.  I crossed my fingers and sent him the script through his manager and hoped that (A) he would read it, and (B) that he liked it.  We got such a quick response from him.  Tom actually loves staying home in London and the last thing he wanted to do was travel all the way to Australia… but he said this is one of the best scripts that I’ve ever read and that he couldn’t not do it.  I was so flattered.  He was such a great person on set from start to finish because he loved the material so much.

Matt:  This is the second time this year we’ve seen you credited as a writer – first with David Michod’s The Rover and now here with Felony.  Are there other writing projects that you’re currently trying to get funding for?

Joel:  David and I are collaborating on something at the moment that we’ll hopefully make next year.  I’ve also written a project that I want to direct which will hopefully be the next thing that I do.  So yeah, I’m always writing something and that’s as much a part of my life now as all the acting stuff. The acting stuff beats a louder drum and gets more attention but back in my room in the evenings and in between takes, I’m back in my room tapping away on my computer hoping to create the next thing.

Matt:  I was going to lead into that – making the transition to directing.  I’ve spoken to a lot of actors who just don’t really want to do it because there’s so much time and effort that is required to direct as opposed to just acting.  But it’s clearly something that you want to do?

Joel:  A part of me wants to experiment with it to see if it is something that I want to keep doing in the future.  I may do it and find it all to be too much responsibility and hate it but at least I would have answered that question for myself.  I suspect, as I have when I’ve directed shorter films, that I’m really going to take to it and love it.  It just engages you so much more than being an actor can.  As an actor, you’re often just waiting around on set for hours waiting for lights to be set up.  There’s a responsibility on yourself to fill that time somehow.

Matt:  And when are we going to see you next on screen?  What acting projects have you got coming up?

Joel:  The next thing you’ll see me in is Exodus which is coming out around Christmas.  It’s a Ridley Scott movie with Christian Bale.  After that I’ve got a western called Jane Got A Gun which is another outing with the director who made Warrior, Gavin O’Connor, and also stars Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor.  It’s an old school western which comes out in February or March.

Matt:  Well it sounds like they both have a fantastic cast so I’m extremely jealous!

Joel:  (laughs)  Yeah, when I was on set doing Jane Got A Gun, I was playing Natalie’s ex-boyfriend and there’s a bit of romance.  I was doing some texting back to friends at home saying “just thought I’d let you know what I’m doing today…” 

Matt:  (laughs)  Thanks Joel for speaking with us this morning.

Interview - James Cameron & Ray Quint On Deepsea Challenge

James Cameron

We don’t see a lot of documentaries hit the big screen and it’s even rarer to see one in 3D!  I spoke with director Ray Quint and “star” James Cameron about Deepsea Challenge…

Matt:  It’s a point you guys make early on in the film but we spend so much money on space exploration as opposed to ocean exploration.  Why is that you think?  That we seem to take such a lesser interest in something that is so close to home?

James:  There are economic reasons for it because we are having to compete with the money the government puts into the big aerospace industry, defence contractors and so on.  The reality is that we need to spend a lot more on the ocean than we do.  The oceans are our life support system right here on spaceship Earth.  They’re critical to our survival and they’re critical to our understanding of climate change.  For example, where is all this heat going, where is all this carbon going?  We need to understanding the interface between our ocean and our atmosphere for our climate modelling.  We also need to understand the web of life that exists in the ocean… hopefully before we destroy it. 

Ray:  Part of what we hope the film will do is push for support for deep ocean exploration.

Matt:  James, something that people always seem to strive for is a work life balance.  And has we see in the film, you’re a married guy with pretty much two careers – filmmaker and explorer.  How do you balance that all up?  Do you worry sometimes that you’ve taken too much on?

James:  It is a time management issue.  Fortunately, I have a great, supportive wife and I’ve got a wonderful family and I think I’ve managed to balance them all.  I really love my time with my kids and so you have to make time.  This is why I’m not that prolific as a filmmaker.  I’ve only directed 8 movies and made 5 documentaries.  But I’ve also done 8 deep ocean expeditions which probably accounts for the low productivity on the feature film directing side.

Matt:  This film has been cut down into a pretty tight 90 minute documentary.  Ray, how many hours of footage did you have to work with?  Was there a lot you wanted to include but couldn’t find the room?

Ray:  I think our first assembly of the film was something like 3 hours long.  We realised we had to get it down to a more palatable length for the distributors.  When I came onto the movie, there was something like 1,200 hours of footage that had been shot in the making of the submersibles and the expeditions.  My first job was to assemble that footage into a coherent narrative that told the story of the expedition and the dives.

Then we asked ourselves what else do we need to bring to this story for an audience, what historical recreations did we want to do, and what archival footage did we need?  It was a matter of compiling all of that into a cohesive story.

Matt:  The film certain builds the suspense – we’re told that if there is a crack in the craft, you’re going to be crushed instantaneously due to the pressure.  I realise there is so much work that goes into the safety of the craft but what is it like where you’re descending for so long – do you actually get nervous?  Or is it something that you can control?

James:  It’s out of my control at that moment but it hasn’t been out of my control during the 7 previous years that we built the sub.  I was intimately involved with the design of the sub with my co-designer Ron Allum so I knew how ever control system worked and I knew every step that we had gone through in our computer modelling and our testing.  Everything had been tested over and over.  I felt very confident in the vehicle.

That said, it’s a prototype vehicle.  As I was progressively diving deeper and deeper, it was essentially a set of sea trials and we were finding flaws and glitches and so eliminating them as we went along.  I did have a couple of “character building” moments on a couple of the dives but again, panic doesn’t do you any damn good.  You just have to sit there are process it.  My brain was racing – thinking of all the ramifications and the things that might be happening in the computer or outside the sub… but that’s in the nature of the work.  Essentially, I was a test pilot.

Ray:  I was looking through hours and hours of footage to find those moments where Jim might have been panicked or worried and the reality is that he wasn’t.  He was very calm under fire.  It may have made it more dramatically compelling to see him stress in those moments but in fact, what we’re seeing in the film is actually the truth of those moments.

Matt:  Ray, as the director, are you responsible for working out where the cameras are positioned inside and outside the craft trying to get the best angle of all the footage?

Ray:  I came onto the film post expedition so the design of those cameras was up to Jim and his team prior my involvement.  Those cameras were the result of a multi-year camera development program to create cameras that were light enough and small enough to bring back 3D images from the ocean depths.  Also, they had to fit into the sphere of the submersible. 

James:  We should probably point out that there were 3 directors sequentially on this film – they weren’t working simultaneously.  I was none of those.  The first was Andrew Wight who conceived the project and started out at the same time that Ron Allum and I started designing the sub.  He was the famous Australian oceanographic filmmaker and had made many of his own documentaries and had worked with me since 2000.  Andrew was the original producer and director on the film but sadly he was killed in a helicopter crash on the eve of the expedition.  It was a great tragedy and we all had to pull ourselves up by our boot straps after that and go on.

I then made 2am phone call to John Bruno who was a friend of mine who had been on a number of expeditions prior and he knew how 3D photography worked.  He jumped in to shoot the expedition proper.  He then rotated off and Ray came for post-production, to shoot the re-enactments, and to find the story.  We really wanted to maintain the through-line and theme of the film being an Australian project as much as possible and John Bruno was not Australian – he was a friend of mine from the U.S.  We wanted the film to have an Australian identity as the film crew is Australian, the build team for the sub was Australian, and Ron Allum and Andrew Wight are Australian.

Ray:  While I was very aware of having to pay tribute to Andrew and was very pleased that we were able to do that in the movie, I couldn’t actually make Andrew’s film.  I realised this after some time and I couldn’t make John’s film either.  I had to take a step back and then step in to make the film that I wanted about Jim and his experiences.

Matt:  One of the biggest news stories this year has been the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 which is suspected to have disappeared in the Indian Ocean.  And it’s been surprising that it’s now been 5 months and not a single shred of debris has been found.  As someone who knows the oceans as well as you guys, does that come as a surprise to you? 

James:  It’s not surprising to me at all.  The ocean is vast and we’re very underfunded for vehicles and instrumentation to explore it.  I don’t think they’ll ever find that plane based on the sketchy knowledge they have of its area.  They can’t narrow the search box enough without further clues.  I think it was a shock for people to suddenly come up short in the 21st century where we think we’ve explored this planet and yet there are vast reaches of it that we can’t have ready access to.  I think that should be a lesson to everybody.  It certainly comes back to my theme that we’re not spending enough on ocean research and technology.  It’s certainly not enough to have the ocean sufficiently instrumented so that we can get good predictive modelling for climate change.

Matt:  James, as we see in the film, you consider yourself as much an explorer as you do a filmmaker.  Now that you’ve been to the deepest part of the ocean, what’s next?  Is there a new challenge you’d like to set yourself?

James:  I think it’s a mistake to go “well now I’ve climbed the highest mountain” and leave it at that.  The reason that we went to the deepest place was to say to the marine science community that we now have a platform that allows us to go to any point in the depths of the ocean.  I saw this as the start of a much larger investigation.  I could spend the rest of my life diving the deep ocean trenches and making new discoveries.  I will continue my life as a Hollywood filmmaker with Avatar sequels that I’m currently working on so for me, it’s a continuum. 

 

Interview - Meeting The Inbetweeners!

The Inbetweeners

I’ve long been a fan of The Inbetweeners and back in 2011, I sat down with Simon Bird and Joe Thomas to talk about their first movie.  I’ve been able to go one better this time.  All four of the guys were in Brisbane for Ekka Wednesday and I was fortunate to spend 10 minutes with them, along with director Iain Morris, to talk about their latest sequel. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.

Matt:  You’ve picked a pretty interesting day to be in Brisbane – it’s a public holiday and we’ve got the Ekka going on – have you guys been out and about?

Simon:  Yeah, we’ve been out sheering sheep, been electroshocked and are now good to go.

Matt:  I remember reading reports after the original film about that being the end of it.  What brought you guys back together for the sequel?

Blake:  We genuinely did think the last film was going to be it and then we had two and a half years of people asking us to make another one.  It was lovely that people liked the first one so much that they wanted us to do another one but even so, we were still unsure about it until Iain and Damon came up with a brilliant script and once we read it, we were on board.

Iain:  We hadn’t thought of a sequel when we made the first film but we missed working with each and we were so enthusiastic.  We kept bumping into people who were saying “why aren’t you doing another one?”  and we didn’t really have a good answer.  We just said “because we said we weren’t”.  So we started thinking about it two years ago.

Matt:  I’m trying to think of a film in recent memory that pushes the envelope further in terms of offensiveness.  Is there stuff you think of that’s just too much or stuff you have to tone down a bit?

Iain:  Not really.  What we tend to think is “let’s shoot everything, push it, and then if it feels like too much when we’re watching it, we can always pull it back in the editing room”.  You’d rather be in a position where we’d taken it to the nth degree and got it rather than worrying about it later.

Matt:  Of all the places you could have gone, what made you think of Australia?

Simon:  A lot of British kids that age go to Australia for their gap year so it felt like a natural fit in the same way that going to Magaluf felt in the first film.  It feels believable that they would at least spend a few weeks in Australia. 

Iain:  I was here in Australia as a high school exchange student and so I had an idea of the people who travel here.  For example, I went to schoolies week and saw the Gold Coast life.  It feels like a place where a lot of people come from England to go backpacking.  Also, it hasn’t got that same poshness that you get from people travelling to India or South East Asia.  Australia is more of a place where people go to get drunk, pick some fruit and get drunk again.

Matt:  I’m trying to think of the closest location to Brisbane that you used.  Were the waterslide park scenes filmed at Wet’n’Wild on the Gold Coast?

Joe:  Yeah, we spent quite a few days at Wet’n’Wild.  A big sequence of the film was shot at Wet’n’Wild and there were some quite challenging scenes.

Matt:  I believe the youngest of you is 26 and that would be James.  Is there a lot of work that goes into making you guys look young on screen?

Blake:  Yeah, shaving is a big part of it.

Joe:  And yeah, we’re pretty immature.  We regress back when we get together as a four.  To an extent, growing up is something that you have to force yourself to do so you can kind of “undo that” when the time comes to film.  In general, teenagers are just people who are little bit more intimidated and less prepared for the world than adults.  Adults aren’t that much more prepared… it’s just that they’re pretending more… and so if you stop pretending then you’ll find your inner teenager quite quickly I think.

Iain:  You guys are incredibly immature on set so well done.

James:  Well that’s because we are committed to our art. (laughs) 

Matt:  I spoke to Chris O’Dowd earlier in the year about the release of Cuban Fury and he said it was really hard for him to play such a despicable human being opposite Nick Frost.  How easy is it for guys to be so awful to each other during the filming?

Joe:  We don’t mind the swearing and that sort of stuff.  That’s how we talk to each other anyway! 

Iain:  I always remember that scene in series 2 where you said to the old woman to “lick my Cornetto”…

Jay:  You just don’t think about it.  It’s almost like you hover above the scene like an “out of body experience”.  You take yourself away from what’s going on.  If you think about it too much, you’ll be standing there asking an old lady to suck you off and you won’t have the confidence and it won’t be a good performance.

Simon:  I don’t find it that embarrassing to be honest.  The more embarrassing it is for me, the funnier I think it’s going to be on screen.  You always know it’s for a good cause.

Matt:  Australia’s most well-known film critic is a lady by the name of Margaret Pomeranz and she gave your original film 1 star and described as “schoolies week with a bunch of morons”.  You guys clearly have a huge fan base but do you read any of the negative stuff that gets said?

Iain:  I saw that.  She also said that this is the reason why Britain lost the empire.  To be honest, if she’s enjoying the film, we’ve made the wrong film. 

Simon:  We’ve actually had some quite good reviews this time which is worrying!

Iain:  Yeah, the people who are the equivalent of her in the UK have been very nice about this film.

Matt:  So is this it?  Is there any chance that there’ll be a third film?

Simon:  Zero. 

Iain:  I don’t think so.   This film felt like something we did because people really, really wanted it.  We were lucky that we were in that position and also because of the fact we loved working together.  I think you’ve got to know when to leave though.  You don’t want to overstay your welcome.  But I’m really proud of this film and I think it’s a really good end to their story.

Matt:  What have you all got planned next?  Are you going to stick to acting or branch out into different things?

Joe:  Quite a few of us have comedy projects we’re trying to write on our own. 

Iain:  They’ve seen me and Damon do it and they’ve gone “well it can’t be that hard”.

Blake:  And now we can direct our own stuff.  (laughs)

Joe:  Yeah, I’m working on a couple of things but it’s very early days at the moment. 

James:  To be fair on Damon and Iain, one thing that we’ve learned is that there’s nothing wrong with being quite stubborn and only doing something if you really want to do it and really believe in it.  You don’t want to do something for the wrong reasons.  I think we’re all like that in a way and so we probably will take our time before we decide what to do next.  I’ve been doing a bit of writing which suits me as I can do it at home and I have two little boys who I can spend more time with. 

Simon:  I’m sort of the same.  There’s a bit of pressure being involved with something as successful and popular as The Inbetweeners.  People will be watching to see what you do next and so we want it to be the right thing.  Not many of those opportunities come up and so a lot of it is a waiting game. 

 

New Farm Cinemas Now Open In Brisbane!


Last Thursday, for the first time in 12 years, I set foot inside the New Farm Cinemas.  It was as if I had been transported in a time machine.  The revamped Purple Room cinema looked almost exactly the same as I remembered it – complete with fresh seats and carpets.

There’s nothing functionally wrong with the big Event/Hoyts multiplexes but the New Farm Cinemas have a history, a charm that it almost impossible to replicate.  You only need to step inside the Purple Room cinema to see what I’m talking about.  It was a pleasure to be invited along to the cinema opening and the Queensland premiere of Guardians Of The Galaxy.  A few photos from the night can be found below.

There are currently two cinemas in operation – the Purple Room (which seats about 200) and the intimate Bronze Room (which seats about 30).  There’ll be six screens in total when the revamp is fully complete next year.

The opening seems to have sparked a price war that might entice those with shallower pockets.  Tickets at the New Farm Cinemas are just $11.50 for adults (with an extra $2 surcharge for 3D films).  If you join their movie club (which costs just $16.50 per year), tickets only $9.50!

The Palace Centro and Palace Barracks – two close competitors – have responded by dropping their top ticket price from $17 to $11.  That’s a permanent change too.  Hopefully the competition isn’t too fierce as I’d like to be able to see all the above mentioned cinemas putting bums on seats and making some cash.

The New Farm Cinemas are licenced and also offer light meals, pizzas, gelato and brownies (in addition to normal popcorn, drinks and confectionary).  You can check out more by visiting their website at http://newfarmcinemas.com.au/.  Hopefully I’ll see you there!

New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas