Friday, October 26, 2007

Gaining Control

So there was Sam Riley, waiting his turn to audition for the role of Joy Division's frontman, Ian Curtis, while another actor was inside a glassed-in office, doing his audition with director Anton Corbijn, and doing the crazy, robotic, arm-waving dance that was a Curtis trademark.
“I saw this other guy auditioning, and I saw him go past the window doing the dance while I was waiting," recalls Riley. "I was hoping they wouldn’t ask me to do that, I hadn’t mastered that yet, and so I went down to the bathroom and started doing it in the mirror.”

Then it was Riley’s turn.

“I went upstairs, did some scenes, and then Anton said, ‘Can I see you move?’ and I said ‘OK, do you want me to sing?’ ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, can I have some music?’ They strapped an iPod to my arm and played ‘Transmission,’ and then I started doing the thing around the room while two producers and Anton are sitting there stroking their chins. And then Anton said, ‘You haven’t got your feet right, and I said, ‘Well, you can’t really see his feet on the video footage I’ve watched.’ And he said, ‘Oh, it’s something like this,’ so by the end of it, me and the big friendly giant were doing this crazy dance around the room — a little room in a church in Manchester. It was really bizare.”

Riley, of course, won the role in the terrific Control -- Corbijn called him a few weeks after their audition dance duet. It was Riley's 26th birthday.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Gilroy Was Here (Again)

More from my interview with Tony Gilroy, the writer and first-time director of the most-excellent Michael Clayton. In limited release last weekend, the George Clooney legal thriller glommed strong reviews and made one of the best limited bows of the year, per Variety ($704,000 at 15 theaters -- a $46,903 per screen average). It opens everywhere Friday, Oct. 12.

The legal universe of Michael Clayton is so keenly observed, the inner workings of its giant New York corporate firm seem just right. And Gilroy wrote The Devil's Advocate, a different, over-the-top thing (with a hambone Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves), also set in the world of law. Did Gilroy ever consider being a lawyer?

"No, I’m not a college graduate. I think I would have been a really good prosecutor, but no.... Any idea that I ever had that I would want to be a lawyer, or would encourage anybody to be a lawyer, has been disabused — not by the morality of it, or anything like that, but by the lifestyle. It’s so not glamorous. It’s such a grind. The whole associate game.... When you’re selling hours of your life. I wouldn’t want my children to be corporate lawyers."

Gilroy, 51 now, dropped out of Boston University thirty years ago, and then kicked around the city. "I lived in Boston playing guitar with various bands, trying to get a record deal. A few of the bands may be remembered, but nothing broke out of the local scene....

"I worked for a lot of singer/songwriters, doing sessions, and then I started writing music for myself. I moved to New York, and got really involved in writing lyrics. It’s weird to say, but at 24, 25, I was burned out [on music].… But I really liked writing. I worked on a novel and a lot of short stories, read a lot of serious fiction.… There were a lot of derivitive Raymond Carver stories that I had no business writing....

"Then I thought I would `slum it,' I would make some dough and write a screenplay. And I spent five years tending bar and writing scripts, trying to figure out how to do it. It was much more difficult than I thought."

Gilroy, whose first produced script was the 1992 D.B. Sweeney/Moira Kelly ice-skating romance The Cutting Edge, describes the "natural progression" of a screenwriter's career:

"First you want to get someone to read your stuff," he says, "then you want to get an agent, then you want to get paid to write something, then you’re desperate to get something made, then you want to get something made that’s good, and then you want to get something made that’s good that makes money, and then you want to direct. Your greed keeps going on."

The things that Gilroy got made that were both good and made him a lot of money are his three Bourne movies -- The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. The success of the first, trouble-plagued Bourne took Gilroy -- and, he says, Universal -- totally by surprise.

"If I ever thought there was going to be a sequel, I never would have killed Clive Owen and Chris Cooper -- two of the finest actors, two great characters -- I never would have killed them! When the movie was a succcess, they turned around and said, `We might want to do this again,' and I thought Oh god, you can’t use the books, the books are useless -- we hadn’t used the book the first time. And I thought, well the two people that I need are dead.
No one ever anticipated… We were just blown away."

And will there be a fourth Bourne?

"Look, Universal is owned by General Electric. Bourne is an asset. I’m sure there will be a corporate appetite to do it. I haven’t had any conversations with anybody about it, but it’s inevitable that there will be an appetite."

And will Gilroy, who's prepping his second directing effort(a romantic comedy), be onboard if Bourne is born again?

"I seriously doubt it," he says.