Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Southerner Looks to the North: Part Five

A Chat with David Gordon Green: On Actors
and Producers
(click here for part four)

A Green production

I love me some Noonan.
-- David Gordon Green


I know you've answered this question before, but I'd like to ask it again: Why
don't you mention the location in Snow Angels? I had a feeling, while I was watch-
ing, that it was set in Pennsylvania, but I didn't know for sure until afterwards.

Well, in the book, it's Pennsylvania-we shot it in Nova Scotia-but I figured if you could have it take place in a timeless, place-less...place, that can make it more universal. And it looks cool. Most places that are more specific are just strip malls.

I thought there was one reference to the 1980s. Otherwise, it didn't specify a year.

There are cell phones and that kind of stuff. Kate calls Amy on a cell phone.

The cell phones inevitably make it more modern, though with
the way people are dressed, it could almost be the '80s.

It could be any time; it could be the '70s. I just tried to make it some-
thing all generations could relate to, and would project their own youth
on to. Tom Noonan came up with all the 'Sledgehammer' stuff.

Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde in Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986)
We already talked a little bit about Tom Noonan, but were you a fan?
Yeah. I love me some Noonan. He's great. He's another one of those guys you bring to the table in a scene or two, and you know he'll give it substance that makes it interesting, so it isn't just hitting a plot point, but using that as an opportunity.
Since he's at the beginning and the end, did he just come in for a short time?
Yeah, he came in for a short time, shaved off his eyebrows.
I hadn't noticed that.
We hid it in glasses, 'cause I thought it looked too weird.
He's really good.
I love him, he's crazy. I watched the movie for the
first time with him the other day. It was pretty fun.
He'll always be remembered for Manhunter, though he's done other things. It could be worse, because he's so good in that. Did you take his dialogue from the book?
Some of it.
He has some of the best lines, because they're so weird. That's another thing
that could date it for some people-although I couldn't figure out what the song
was at first, because they're so out of tune. It's from, I think, the late-1980s.

[Arthur's band struggles through Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer."]
It was actually kind of indecipherable until, in post, we
went back and added an alto sax playing the verse.
Beckinsale in Snow Angels
It starts to become more decipherable. So, it sounds like you were familiar with Kate Beckinsale before you cast her. In the press notes, you say, 'In a way, Snow Angels was the opposite of the studio movies she'd been doing. I'd been a big fan
of her work in genre movies, and really liked that this was an unexpected career move for her.' Were you also thinking of the things she did in Britain, and was
there anything in particular that led you to believe she'd be good in this part?

Everything. Her body of work led me to believe she'd be good in this part, because she hadn't done anything exactly like this, and all the things had been around encompassing the elements of Annie, from the physicality of an Underworld mov-
ie to some of the dramatic performances, like Laurel Canyon and Cold Comfort Farm, and some of the romantic elements of Serendipity. Being a character that has a phy-
sicality that invites you into her life, that can get raw, and strip down some of the preconceptions we have about her, because obviously she's a beautiful face, but trying to find something internally we were digging for, and she was generous enough to bring her investment in being the mother of a young daughter...
I was thinking about that when I was watching, too. I think it's inevitable that
what you know about an actor you project onto the character, but she's been a
mother for awhile. I mean, she had her child longer ago than people realize.

I think Lily's five or six now.
[Her father is Michael Sheen, The Queen's Tony Blair.]
That isn't as old as I thought. In a way that's almost spookier, though,
because then her real child is closer in age to the child in the film. I
figured she was bringing some of her experience as a mother...

She actually brought her daughter to the location to hang out and spend
time with us. I think it was just like a nice safety net for her to emotionally
have the reality there when she was gonna go to some pretty difficult places.
Which she does. I've always liked her, and I'm still getting caught up on things
she did a long time ago, like on PBS, they just showed her Emma
[the 1996
made-for-TV version]. They've been doing the whole Jane Austen thing.
You should check out The Last Days of Disco. That's a good movie.
I still haven't seen that. And she also did one of those fairytale adaptations-not Faerie Tale Theatre, but a competing version-I think she did Alice in Wonderland.
I don't know about that.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998)
You have two movies as a producer coming out. I've seen Great World of Sound,
and Shotgun Stories is coming to Seattle, but I missed it during the film festival.

Didn't Shotgun win an award here?
It did, and I wish I'd known more about it before-
hand, because I heard how great it was afterwards.

It's a really good movie. Check it out, and spread
the word. We need to get Jeff's crew off to the races.
Were you at all inspired to produce in having had Terrence
Malick back your work? Or is it more that they're friends?

Well, they're friends, and you do whatever you need to help them out and
do something cool. I don't have time to make all the movies I want to
make, so I need a Mafia of people to start branching off and executing.
[I don't think he meant murdering...]
Green and Schneider
That makes sense. Did you inspire Paul Schneider to become
a director or was that something he was always interested in?

[Schneider's directorial debut premiered in January at Sundance.]
I think it's something he was always interested
in. He didn't study acting; he studied editing.
That's interesting. I didn't know that about him.
Has he actually edited anything post-school?

No. Do you know about Danny McBride?
That name sounds familiar.
He was in All the Real Girls. He played the funny psychic bus [indistinguishable]. He has a moustache. He's one of four friends he [Schneider's character] has. He was a directing student at our school, and now he's in huge movies. They haven't come out yet, but he's the guy to watch for the year. He and Will Ferrell are starting Land of the Lost right now. He's in my new movie, Pineapple Express with Seth Rogen and James Franco, and he's in Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller's new movie, and he's in Drillbit Taylor. He's never auditioned or got headshots. He's like, 'I don't want to be an actor. I
want to be a director. Why do I keep getting these stupid movie roles...?'
Paul is really good, and he seems to be getting even
better lately. Did you see Lars and the Real Girl?

I didn't.
Honestly, I didn't like it, but he and Emily Mortimer are great.
They make the movie. It's one of the best things he's done.

I'll keep my eyes open for it. It's good to see all your buddies that you've known for so long kind of taking off and doing some pretty cool stuff. And guys like Aaron Katz-who I didn't go to school with-he's kind of like a splinter of the group.
Next: On Bill Anderson and Pineapple Express
Another Green production
Produced by North Carolina School of the Arts alums David Gordon Green and directed by Jeff Nichols, Shotgun Stories opens at the Northwest Film Forum on
Fri., 5/9. The film won SIFF '07's New American Cinema Grand Jury Prize. The NWFF
is located at 1515 12th Ave. on Capitol Hill. For more information, please click here or call 206-329-2629. Images from Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery, Monsters and Critics, Movie Habit, MovieMeter, No Budget Film School, and Variety.

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