Interview: Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
What better way to dive into the New York Film Festival than by entering… The Forbidden Room? “An encyclopedic compendium of cinematic possibilities, a cauldron bubbling over with highly spiced visual and narrative tropes,” Jonathan Romney wrote in our September/October issue about this exuberant pastiche film by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson that tells tales about lumberjacks, nightclub singers, bathtub connoisseurs, volcanoes, and more. Romney continued: “[It’s] a genuinely experimental experience, at once an imagistic neo-‘happening,’ a cornucopian overflowing of story, and a materialist rhapsody on the textures of antique film stock.”
The Forbidden Room screens September 28 and 29 in The New York Film Festival and opens October 7 at Film Forum. And newly added to the NYFF slate is another surprise Maddin and Johnson had up their sleeves, recently premiered as an installation in the Wavelengths section at the Toronto International Film Festival: Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton—an authorized, gonzo making-of film about the Afghanistan war movie Hyena Road by fellow Canadian director Paul Gross, complete with melancholic maundering voiceover, lasers, and everything.
FILM COMMENT’s Nicolas Rapold spoke with Maddin and Johnson about their films, James Bond and Douglas Sirk, and all the colors of the rainbow.
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton has sidetracked me a little before I begin. Was that the actual making-of film that you submitted, or was it a different version?
Guy Maddin: Oh, yeah! As a matter of fact, Niv Fichman, the producer of Hyena Road, is an old friend of mine. He produced The Saddest Music in the World and a few of my shorts. And I met Paul Gross, the director of Hyena Road, a couple of… [Evan Johnson joins the conversation.] Hey, Evan, I’m just talking to Nic Rapold and he asked about Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, which pleases me. I’m very proud of the film.
So what did they say?
GM: They knew all along. Paul Gross is self-described as Canada’s populist filmmaker. And I guess he considers me a pretty artsy-fartsy filmmaker. He definitely considers us occupying opposite ends of the same spectrum. So when Evan and I and the rest of our collaborators on The Forbidden Room were really broke—which has been the case for a few years now—and Paul Gross had this movie… In Canadian terms, $12 million is some kind of Avatar-sized budget. [Laughs] I expressed a lot of bitter jealousy of Paul’s ability to tap into money, and one of us suggested burning a few quick bucks by shooting a making-of. And since I knew his producer, Niv, I just called him up and it happened.
It was going to be far more ambitious because Hyena Road went into the kind of delays that films always do. But we were so eager to shoot and collect our money that we were going to take his script and shoot “pre-creations” of his scenes using our own cast members and things like that. And when his film got up and going, we were going to shuffle those pre-creations, our versions, and then maybe some recreations to fill in the gaps and just do our own version of the script. When we finally did get to Jordan where they were shooting, we were going to just put our camera apparatus right beside theirs and just steal their scenes, steal their production values, steal their art direction and everything, and just make our own movie.
At first it was going to be in a cine-essay or lyric essay tradition. But a recent viewing of Pere Portabella’s Vampir Cuadecuc, where Pere Portabella put his camera next to Jesus Franco’s on the set of a Dracula movie with Christopher Lee and Soledad Miranda, really inspired us. But by the time Evan was finished cutting it all together and Galen had finished doing a bunch of visual effects, it was something altogether different than Cuadecuc. It was what it is, which I think is sui generis.
It’s amazing. I watched it in the TIFF Bell Lightbox lobby, sitting next to a whole crowd of people waiting to take pictures of Johnny Depp. They were swarming around me.
GM: [Laughs] I’m thrilled it’s going to play at the New York Film Festival. It’s a very late addition. It’ll be there the same days as The Forbidden Room screens. Installed on “the world’s biggest plasma screen.”
GM: Yeah, we’re really delighted. Unfortunately we won’t be going head-to-head with Hyena Road at the New York Film Festival. But we’re sort of going head-to-head with the Pope.
Evan Johnson: Maybe we could do a behind-the-scenes Pope documentary.
GM: We’ll show them Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton.
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton
I love the effects you used for one of the war shoot-outs in Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton. It momentarily turns into something like an Eighties straight-to-video movie.
EJ: Oh yeah, the laser fight. I think what had happened is, we were editing a guy who was driving by some kind of paintball facility. We wrote an e-mail just describing it being one of the most depressing places.
GM: Next to a sewage treatment lagoon was a restaurant and paintball adventure joint, and I wanted to kill myself. But Evan didn’t help me. Instead, he just color-turned all the footage.
EJ: I thought you meant laser tag, ’cause I was confused, I guess. Because we were editing a war movie, and I was like: “These fucking war movies. We should laser tag.” That’s what I remember thinking.
GM: Anyway, this is what our collaboration is like. And we work that way on set.
A series of misunderstandings…
GM: Usually due to miscommunication.
EJ: At one point we were thinking about, or I was thinking about, the so-called daring raid in Zero Dark Thirty. I thought it looked like a video game.
GM: I know there are a three credited filmmakers on this Tim Horton project, but if we had to break it down, Evan was really the director and Galen, his brother, our production designer. And our music designer was sending in massive efforts and support. And I basically was the greying figurehead sleeping in a safe house. Every now and then just playing myself in the movie.
EJ: We worked together. It was fun.
GM: And I got to be the slumped sleeping figurehead.
I appreciated your prone Mount Rushmore presence.
GM: There were times during The Forbidden Room where I was sort of slumped and sleeping too because I’m getting older. And I really needed the youthful if naive enthusiasm of Evan and Galen about where they were going in their lives. So they got me out of bed in the morning. Sometimes with a shovel. Because I had never been involved in a project that took five years before. I know other projects have taken decades to make. But I’m used to turning them out a lot more quickly. So there were a lot of ups and downs during this long and complicated process, as you can imagine.
The Forbidden Room
Most of The Forbidden Room was filmed in front of a live audience, at the Pompidou Center, right?
GM: That’s right, 99 percent of it. Except a couple of pickup shots. Whenever you see a kind of international—you know, a Mathieu Amalric or Charlotte Rampling or Udo Kier, André Wilms or something, that was Paris.
EJ: It’s 60/40, I don’t know. Slightly more in Canada.
GM: And that’s only because we decided to make a feature film after we shot in Paris. And so some of the scripts that we wrote for the Montreal shoot had the advantage of us knowing they could fit together. And some of the Paris ones were a little more stuck-fit resistant. And we were also getting our mojo. Evan had started experimenting with color treatments of the hideous raw video I shot in Paris, which is destroying my confidence as a shooter by the minute. Evan had done a lot of experiments and I started to feel good. And you know, even false confidence—I would take that, you need it to start a day’s shooting.
What were you shooting on that yielded the kind of raw video?
GM: It got raw video no matter what we were shooting on. But a variety of cameras in Paris, some of them had really primitive sensors, some of them had good ones, but they were big.
EJ: You mostly shot on a Canon TGY in Paris.
GM: At least it was portable, if jittery, because my hands were trembling from too much coffee. But we shot on Blackmagics in Montreal. That was a real pleasure.
It would seem that making a movie is stressful enough. So why would you want to do it in front of people?
GM: [Laughs] I’m not saying we made a smart decision. I insist on making decisions. At the age of 23, I was an extra in an Ellen Burstyn movie called The Silence of the North. And I shared a frame with Ellen Burstyn briefly. It took me two days sitting around in a green room for me to get my five seconds of screen time. And I just hated how slow everything was and how long it took for decisions to be made. And I kind of made a promise to myself. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to keep it, but: if I ever got to make my own movies (and I wasn’t seriously considering it yet) things would move quickly. You know, one shot after another, boom boom boom. And that I would make decisions. And I’ve always kind of trusted my instincts to make quick decisions—which produced either the right move or at least an unfortunate accident that I could quickly spin as a fortunate accident. So stuff came out of this process, this kind of controlled chaos.
We decided that after Paris, there just too much chaos and not enough control. So we put a lot more planning into our chaotic days beforehand in Montreal, and I think we got it into the right balance where we knew exactly what we wanted to shoot and in what order. And then we just let the accidents come from performances and camera placement and some lighting, then whatever variables were brought to bear by the presence of a live audience and how the actors might respond to those. It was kind of crazy… In Paris especially, because the Pompidou Center is like a cathedral of modern art, it’s enormous, and a lot of people came in. It was common for there to be a couple of hundred people watching, some from above—kind of a Victor Hugo gallery, people chewing with their mouths open and dropping those croque-monsieurs, chewed up.
The crumbs are falling into the mise en scène.
GM: And other people just making creepy, long, continuous eye contact with us from the shadows of the stairwells. And a lot of marshland meeting rituals audible from just off to one side beside the steps. A lot more variables, it’s true. But the reason I wanted to do it was that I felt it would make me more of a showman—not just during the screening of the finished product but during the actual making—and I felt that that would affect what I ended up shooting. And it did to a certain degree. I think the actors felt more relaxed, and more like they were in a playroom than on a movie set. And I needed that. They felt more uninhibited, somehow counterintuitively, with all those people staring at them. Actors, I imagine, can be insecure but they seemed to open up more.
The Forbidden Room
The idea reminded me a little of a theater performance, like an open rehearsal. But it also reminded me of those early silent-era production houses, like the studios they used to have in New Jersey, where they would just do one thing after another.
GM: Right, yeah. And with sometimes using natural sun light. And if the New Jersey winds that day were really strong, you could see doilies blowing off tables. All that stuff’s really charming. You’re constantly reminded that the film you’re watching is something of human manufacture. I really like that. And we made a great show putting the actors into a trance starting each day. We sat them around tables, made them join hands or tied them together with rope and made them connect with each other and then open up in some sort of hypnotist routine. I would put them into a trance and invite the spirit of that day’s lost films we shot, which is never too far away from Paris, one of the film capitals of the world, and then just inviting that spirit to descend into the actors and compel them to act out the long forgotten plot. So, even just the cadences of my voice, which were slow and march-like mannered, were meant to charge the actors with enough stylization to last the day. And maybe the language itself was written in such a way that naturalistic performances would be literally impossible.
So I had to direct the actors very little. We just basically started sketching out the forgotten movie. At first a little bit sleepily and finally with the same disinhibition that dreams have and somewhere in there, we got exactly the right amount of melodrama that we needed for our movies to be highly energized as a unit to fit inside a unit inside a unit inside another unit, and construct our project.
And with these movies you were resurrecting or summoning, how much did you read up on them?
EJ: There was a research phase. We went over a lot of scraps of material to be able to build from. So there is one particular case that we usually cite because it’s clearest. There was a lost Naruse film called The Strength of a Mustache and we knew nothing. We couldn’t find a plot synopsis. We’ve seen Naruse films. We’re not Naruse experts, and we didn’t want to think to ourselves, “We could make a Naruse film,” because that would be highly presumptuous. So we just tried to make a story that we felt would extract the possible or latent meaning from that title.
GM: You officially know far more about Naruse than I did, and you talked about how many of his films dealt with the shame of a father in the eyes of his son.
EJ: I know that I’ve seen Ozu films from the same period where the father’s sort of public shaming was paraded before a child’s eyes and the way it affected the child was some kind of tragicomedy. So that’s basically the tone we were after. So we would take a fragment like that and spin it into something we felt resonated with what the original was possibly like, as if it was our own making.
GM: And one of us would quite often find ourselves in this you know far-fetched premise. I’m sure I did, I don’t know if I ever told you but I felt like Adam West and Burt Ward solving one of the Riddler’s riddles. Duct-taping one piece of fragile bamboo to another until we finally had a movie script that we were convinced was a perfect adaptation of something we only knew the title of.
EJ: And mostly you. I and the other writer, Bob Kotyk, we were working with you, we were aware that in order to make this work best, we would need to be appealing to your ability to find yourself in the stories you want to tell. And so it became kind of like a weird therapy for you. Not that it helped. Yeah, it was a destructive therapy, but it had sort of the form of therapy if not the outcome.
GM: I go throw myself into work to forget my troubles and then I just become some cowardly figure hiding in a pile of laundry in the middle of a Mikio Naruse movie. You know, here I am in Germany resurrecting a film and there I am again cowering underneath a stack of strudel.
The question of titles always make me think of the Douglas Sirk quote: that a title is like the prologue to a play.
GM: Oh, that’s good. Yeah, he had great titles. His titles were really getting you up to speed. It was like a face slap or something like that. You’re up on your feet as soon as the movie starts.
EJ: They’re almost like James Bond titles.
Tomorrow Never Dies or something?
EJ: Tomorrow Never Dies. That’s a Douglas Sirk movie or a James Bond movie?
GM: How many movie titles did James Bond and Douglas Sirk share?
GM: Goldfinger is Deadfinger. And Thunderball, I don’t know, Die Another Day? That’s a John Gavin postwar German reconstruction melodrama. I know it is.
Then there’s the little-known Everything Eventually Dies but I don’t know what happened to that one. [Laughter]
GM: That’s right. Exactly. It’s amazing where you find your rhymes in the lost film world.
EJ: There’s Always Tomorrow. That’s the one.
The Forbidden Room
There are just as many styles as titles in The Forbidden Room. Could you maybe kind of walk me through some of the styles that you’re taking off on?
GM: One stage of it was just to try to list as many movie genres as we could think of, because it was a chance to help the viewers remember where the heck they were in any of these complicated nestings we were always planning to give them—whether it was for the Internet project we started out to make or the feature film we ended up making as a companion piece. We knew we wanted to help people. So they would be able to say, we’re in the virgin sacrifice volcano movie. We’re in the submarine picture. Or we’re in the Western. We shot a Western with Udo Kier and Charlotte Rampling in Paris, which will be in our Internet companion piece. And then there’s the Japanese shamed-father genre. We had Alpine pictures and aviation pictures and a lot of different vampire films, because they’re radically different from culture to culture so we have a Filipino vampire movie, which actually appears in The Forbidden Room. A Bulgarian one, which takes place in an asylum.
What’s the difference between the different vampire movies across cultures?
GM: It’s interesting how vampire myths are different from culture to culture and radically different. Somehow, it’s as if the Filipino vampire stories, even though they’re ancient, were conceived for direct to VHS. They’re really centuries old.
But they saw VHS coming.
GM: I really love them as a result. They’re just so joyously low-res. You know, even as bedtime stories told to little village children in the 15th century, they were kind of low-res affairs, low-budget bedtime stories. What you get from reading about them is a joyous liberation to some of the stories and the madness. Some of them are very politically concerned. This movie isn’t just a narrative maelstrom but it’s also a little travelogue of the globe we inhabit.
It’s the idea of folk tales being bare-bones and consequently very direct.
GM: I can’t afford fancy set decorations, you know. And I’m a huge fan of folk tales. My way into movies is always through the folk tale or fairy tale or bedtime-story door. Once I get inside them, I see other sophistications or see that these stories aren’t essentially any of those things at all and I’ll start looking at them in a different way. But I always approach them that way first. Probably because those are the first stories I ever got and that taught me how to look at stories.
The bare-bones aspect reminds me of a recent visit Roger Corman made to Anthology Film Archives. He was telling stories about his low-budget exploits, like renting a car for the weekend to scout locations, with unlimited mileage, and getting back in time to return it on Sunday. It was like he had achieved some form of grace or something.
GM: It’s fantastic. That’s the kind of almost levitation-inducing feeling you have when you’ve pulled off a trick that didn’t cost a penny. And I don’t consider myself a cheapskate, but there’s just something about pulling off something with the simplest [means]… Something even Méliès wouldn’t have stooped to. Just something so simple in camera, in spirit anyway. So lovely.
The Forbidden Room
Speaking of visual magic, I wanted to ask about getting this film’s fervid palette. What are the steps for that in post? One thing that confuses me about blockbusters is they always say the special effects take tens of millions of dollars. And then it just looks horrible. I imagine thousands of people in a windowless room working on it.
EJ: We had one or maybe two postproduction people. I was working with my brother and there was just two of us. And I feel like if there was a team of us, like a hundred, we’d be averaged out as human beings. I think big budget postproduction is—I don’t want to say slaves to realism because I’m not sure if in an Avengers movie, realism is the…
GM: Special-effects realism.
EJ: They eliminate mistakes, I think. Dailies, postproduction houses, they’ll loop one half-second of footage over and over again. And try to just snuff out like the possibility of a mistake. That was the opposite approach. We wanted to be surprised by mistakes and then curate the mistakes. So I think the vibe of the film in the end as a meeting of mistakes chattering to each other. And Guy shoots like that—where there’s lots of things, things are always falling over and you’re tripping while holding the camera, actors are flubbing their lines because you’re shouting at them while they’re trying to talk. Capturing that kind of chaos in postproduction is something we were very conscious of. I think it’s that fear that you cited that things would end up looking generic.
GM: I’ve always needed mistakes. The happy accident was my first and most loyal collaborator. Now Evan is my favorite. But I haven’t turned my back from the happy accident, and I really have learned that I’m just not good enough to plan the best things I’ve made. And so by getting all the variables, by getting moving lights, moving actors of varying strengths of memory, fans, veils, props, elements, flimsinesses, all in a cramped quarters with sometimes astonishing members of the public involved, and then I often did trip the other camera operator or trip over, which produced some sudden Abel Gance–like camera whooshes and painful-seeming and painful-in-reality plummets. Just all sorts of cool things happen. And then Evan just encouraged so many accidents at the post-stage too with those textures that are barely controlled I’m sure. Herding cats has become the standard unit of measuring difficulty but I’m sure there were at least ten kitten-herding units at the most controllable times.
And how long does it take, postproduction on a given sequence?
EJ: My brother and I would cook up a texture and a recipe, and we’ll work for a day or two trying to get the color. We’ll have almost like a still shot in front of us, trying to get the color and texture right on that. And then we take the rushes. Because we did the effects on every single frame of everything we shot. We didn’t edit the movie and then add the effects. So we made one ludicrous decision to do that. And then our editor knew exactly what kind of mistakes he was working with. Sometimes a five-minute sequence will be three hours of footage.
GM: And for each movie you selected a palette. It wasn’t just the genres that were to help viewers know which stratum they were. But you hoped that each story would have its own palette, a pairing or a trio of colors that made a serenity or an agitation or a lurid you know an exploitation color-palette of some sorts. And actually recently I just turned a few extra bucks, I spoke in Toronto about Magnificent Obsession. I made notes at home watching it on the Criterion disc of just trying to name the palettes. But I’m an old house painter, so it wasn’t just enough to say yellow or blue or anything. You had to say chiffon yellow, or smoky rose. And after a while I realized that Sirk was originally an Expressionist painter. He was really controlling the colors beautifully to control the mood, and he used this one color called Rock Hudson’s nipple, which is perhaps the most effective. He used it with an off-white continuous towel white, and Rock Hudson’s nipple is my favorite palette in Magnificent Obsession.
Evan and his brother Galen, who’s also the production designer, on Forbidden Room came up with Sirk-caliber, Bond-caliber even, palettes that really evoked feelings that were as mysterious to me as why anyone would make this movie in the first place.
What would you call some of the colors in Forbidden Room?
GM: I should just take a notepad with me and watch and start naming the colors. Maybe Evan has names for them all.
EJ: Our color approach—it’s almost embarrassing to say, we would see a painting, like a Cézanne painting, and say: “Hey, those are nice colors, Cézanne.” And we would try to make the scene look like those colors. So it wasn’t totally random.
GM: Hang on, I do have some palettes written down here. What am I talking about? Hang on. I’ll just get my glasses.
The Forbidden Room
I imagine you have one of those key ring things you get at paint stores, with a thousand little color plates.
GM: For sure. It’s inspired by that. Because I am an old house painter. Because no one really knows what purple is and apparently at art school, you’re not even allowed to use the word purple.
GM: Some people basically think pink is purple, and other people think blue is. But off-whites, there’s baby powder and front tooth, kind of like when you combine two off-whites it’s really nice. Chamber pot. Seagull breast. Old snow. Then there’s just basic ones like emerald and copper. Lavender shimmer and mouse check. Nicotine and Aqua Velva. Singed canary is one of my favorite yellows. Singed canary and meatloaf. But one of the more evocative blue grays is tailpipe’s breath.
GM: Forest haze and freckle. So I did have a few of these… Mildewed telegram and airplane seat.
I’m going to look for every single one of those colors now when I watch it, and I’m going to shout them out from the audience. [Laughter] I just also wanted to ask about another side-project to The Forbidden Room: the living posters.
GM: Galen did those, out of a process that he and Evan worked out.
EJ: Galen designed a poster for the movie and opened it in an after-effect video graphics program, and loaded the entire movie through the poster so that he could just scan through a timeline and take little snippets of the film.
GM: He made like 400 posters.
EJ: Oh, there’s more.
GM: They can exist on the Internet as living, breathing things. And I really like that idea. At the Bell Lightbox, I was wishing that Galen’s living poster was just sitting next to all those static ones.
Yeah, that’d be great.
GM: It seems like all posters in the future will be moving. Not just moving—they’re living.
There’ll be someone actually imprisoned there.
GM: Some of them are living on like a friend’s couch. It’s kind of low-budget but… Living at night on the couch and then just putting in a few hours in the frame.
I picture one of them getting a fever and then obviously a thermometer coming out of his mouth.
GM: Yeah, really self-pityingly…
The living posters also remind me of the introductions in silent films when an actor gets his or her credit and then is just kind of preening or performing in place for a second.
GM: A little vignette. Those are nice too. It’s a way of thanking the actor one more time. Not just putting them in the end or head credits, but putting them in the middle of the movie and maybe even running your fingers through their hair and giving them a quick neck rub for like five seconds there.
The Forbidden Room
I wanted to ask perhaps an obvious question about the actors: how did they respond to the idea of silent-film acting? Did they come in with an idea that it might be different?
GM: It’s funny, over the years, I’ve had the same experience with actors almost every time, whether these are people I’ve just asked off the street or veterans of 40 years of performing for the camera. They just do what they feel they should do. And it almost always just turns out the way it is in my films. This case is no different. All I do is just change their position slightly, maybe the speed or the size of the gestures slightly, and usually toning it down, strangely. And it’s done. I get to direct while the cameras are rolling, usually. Maybe actors just pick up from each other and from me and just from the general controlled chaos of the set, that a certain amount of more play than usual is allowed. I know when I worked with Jason Patric on my previous feature, he didn’t want to play. But he knew that his part required a lot more restraint and control, and so he set the tenor for himself that there was no playing on the set. But the other people, their lines had been written to be kind of musical and mannered and playful. Everyone else just does what they feel they should. Jason Patric was the only time I really discussed performances beforehand, whereas everyone else just shows up and defaults to what I get—to what I’m happy to get.
They pick up on the vibe.
GM: The trick is actually casting the right people. People with lovely voices, faces, a kind of a style. People that already come with baggage. And then you take the baggage and use it in post.
You travel with it.
GM: Yeah, exactly.
How familiar were the actors with your films?
GM: Many of them were. But I think they all did a little bit of research beforehand. A lot of my stuff’s up online. Charlotte Rampling, the night before I met her for the first time for lunch, watched three of the features I’d made recently. And she said she liked them, and I said: “Oh, that’s very sweet of you.” And she said: “I am not sweet.” She’s friendly and funny, but she ain’t sweet. She’s imposing and gorgeous and amazing, but she ain’t sweet. It was very flattering, and it enabled me to feel more comfortable with her than I would have been, had she not seen them and I felt like I would have been introducing her to this weird world she might balk at. And you don’t want to be around Charlotte Rampling when she’s balking. Those beautiful husky dog eyes might flash up and some husky dog teeth might come out and tear your throat out.
I don’t know why I speak this way. I spent four days working with her, and she’d bring gifts to me and sort of de-bone herself on the couch. Loll around and laugh. I think I just had my Night Porter traumas, as a randy teen, and there’s just no melting those terrors.
The welts from the crop are still there.
It’s reminding me of when we did an interview for My Winnipeg. You said Ann Savage was saying something like: “What you’re saying doesn’t cut any ice with me.”
GM: She is unbelievable. The kitten-herding ratio there was very high. That would be like directing two dozen kittens and color-correcting the shots simultaneously.
A complex equation. So, how do you watch old movies, the ones that exist?
GM: Evan is pretty good at the downloads. He hands them off to me. My computer is all clogged with things I shouldn’t watch. And it’s slow. I don’t know my way and I get lost easily and end up in the same self-withering place every time. I still like a good Friday night at the movies. With a big bag of popcorn. A lot of people are surprised to hear that my favorite movie of the last decade is Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. But it just is. That’s your favorite one too, Evan, right?
EJ: I like 3 as well.
I liked that one.
GM: The entire time I was watching it, I was imagining Luis Buñuel sitting next to me. And Luis and I were having the time of our lives. It was fantastic. You know he was weeping by the end of the picture. With envy and admiration. I then met Brad Bird, the film’s director, at Telluride right afterward, totally forgetting that he’d directed my favorite movie. We made small talk about the weather and how the altitude was affecting us. I realized with a giant face-slap, right after we’d said goodbye, that he’d just directed my favorite movie. But oh well.
It’s funny that we keep on coming back to Big Movies like that. I like to think of The Forbidden Room as a much better version of Inception, in some ways.
GM: I’m glad you mention that. Evan has a lot of things to say about that, about Christopher Nolan. Where I teach at Harvard, I ask the students to write down the two films that affected them the most in their life. Some of them will write a Wong Kar Wai film and a Christopher Nolan movie. Some of them will write down a Carl Dreyer film and a Christopher Nolan film. Some of them will write down, you know, a David Lynch and a Christopher Nolan film. His influence is everywhere.
But then Evan finally came up with the theory that I’ve been making Christopher Nolan movies all along. Some of them even before Christopher Nolan started making films.
EJ: And I think the goal of your career should be to make his entire catalogue.
GM: He’s outstripped me, so now we’re hoping to do a making-of, since we started talking about Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton. This is our goal. Maybe you can help us to reach out to Christopher Nolan.
EJ: We want to be onboard. We want to be alongside him, making the making-of.
What is Nolan making next again?
EJ: We don’t know. It’s Warner Bros. And it’s a giant budget. And we want to get into it. And it’s coming out in the summer of 2017.
GM: It’s good for our calendars too!
It seems like his movies are about to enter the singularity. He believes he’s approaching the secret of the universe somehow, judging from Interstellar.
GM: Yeah, and I want to be looking over his shoulder.