Quint holds a BRICK over director Rian Johnson's head and makes him tell all!!!
Published at: April 14, 2006, 2:43 a.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with an interview I did with Rian Johnson, director of BRICK, a movie I saw late last year at a mega-early press screening, pre-Austin Film Festival, and just fell in love with. I had a chance to meet Rian Johnson at AFF and found him to be a genuine and regular guy. I had booked a phone interview with him before I realized Capone had done one as well. You can read Capone's interview here!
In a lame attempt to not repeat, I tried to focus on the cast of the film and let Capone's chat stand alone, especially when it comes to Johnson's influences in creating BRICK. The flick is out in limited theaters now. If it's playing in your area, get your ass to the theater! BRICK is fresh, well-written, well-acted and is involving as all hell. It really is a breath of fresh air for film lovers.
Anyway, here's the chat!
RIAN JOHNSON: Hey, Eric. It's Rian.
QUINT: Hey, Rian. What's going on, man?
RIAN JOHNSON: How are you doing, man?
QUINT: I'm well... I had one of those panic wake-ups this morning where I thought the alarm didn't go off and I slept through the interview.
RIAN JOHNSON: (laughs) I get that all the time. Story of my life.
QUINT: I'm trying out a new recording system that involves all these wires and head-sets...
RIAN JOHNSON: This is going to turn into a (David) Cronenberg movie. I'm going to meld into your brain, or something.
QUINT: I'm hoping that's where it goes...
RIAN JOHNSON: (laughs) Believe me, it'd be the dullest Cronenberg movie ever made. (laughs)
QUINT: So, the movie's been released in limited markets. Do you know how it's been doing?
RIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, it's great. We had a great opening weekend in New York and LA. Now we're expanded out to a few other cities and... you know... It's been a little slow going at first, with the expansion, which I kind of expected. I think this is a movie that's going to definitely build and, hopefully, grow an audience over time as people discover it. But, especially out there in Austin, I'm hoping start discovering it more, start coming out to the theater to see it a bit.
QUINT: It's been slow in Austin?
RIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, it has been, actually. Surprisingly. I was really shocked because I love that town so much. It's got such a vibrant film scene. I guess shocked is a wrong word, but I was a little bummed. But like I said, hopefully the word will start spreading and people will start discovering it a bit more, I hope. You know, from showing the movie around at festivals and doing screenings and stuff... You know, it's been very comforting to me to see... as much as it tends to kind of divide audiences one way or the other, there is definitely an audience for this movie, I think, and there's always a group that's really passionate about it and really dig it.
QUINT: Well, you know it's been pretty surprising... The talkbacks on every BRICK related story have been predominantly positive, with people actually saying they're looking forward to the movie.
RIAN JOHNSON: I know, man! That's been incredibly encouraging as a big Ain't It Cool News reader, I was almost afraid to scroll down to the talkbacks. I take it as a very good sign that people are being so kind.
QUINT: The release is going wider, right?
RIAN JOHNSON: It is. We're going to spread it out a bit more, I'm hearing. Although Focus is very much kind of riding the gas pedal on it, they're very much keeping an eye on how it does and rolling it out based on...
QUINT: I saw that it was pulling in some crazy per-screen average... something like over $40,000 per screen...
RIAN JOHNSON: That surprised me. That really shocked me that we did so well in New York and LA that first weekend. That was really encouraging. And we've continued to do well there and in Toronto and San Francisco and D.C. people are really coming out to see the movie.
QUINT: Just not Austin! (laughs)
RIAN JOHNSON: (laughs) Hopefully now! This weekend, I'm sure. I want to come out there, actually.
QUINT: You should! You should come out this weekend. I have my big Fred Dekker double-feature at the Alamo...
RIAN JOHNSON: Oh, no kidding? Actually, I'm going to see if I can get out there and make it work. What are you showing?
QUINT: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS... midnight, Saturday... Fred Dekker in attendance...
RIAN JOHNSON: Awwww.... Nice!
QUINT: And MONSTER SQUAD... Two shows on Sunday, with Dekker and 3 of the MONSTER SQUAD team there.
RIAN JOHNSON: Oh, my God! There you go. I haven't seen SLITHER yet, but I heard it very much has a NIGHT OF THE CREEPS type vibe...
QUINT: It's very... Well, I mean, it's about alien slugs that jump into people's mouths turning them into zombies, so...
RIAN JOHNSON: (laughs) So, I guess it has a vibe that's similar. (laughs)
QUINT: I actually talked to James Gunn about that and he was like, "Uh, erm... well, listen..."
RIAN JOHNSON: It's probably like, for me, when people bring up BUGSY MALONE...
QUINT: He was like, "The thing is I wrote the movie, I shot it and I showed a rough cut to some friends and the very first thing one of them came up to me and said, "That was great! It was just like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS!" And I was like, "What the fuck is NIGHT OF THE CREEPS?""
RIAN JOHNSON: D'oh! Oh my God!
QUINT: He was just saying that he didn't mind people saying he ripped off past movies for SLITHER, but that he didn't rip off NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, they just ripped off the same movies that I did!
RIAN JOHNSON: That phenomenon that bites you in the ass... Are you doing the screenings at the legendary Alamo Drafthouse?
QUINT: Yep, Downtown.
RIAN JOHNSON: Which I've never been to.
QUINT: That's a goddamn shame... I guess we should actually get back to talking about your movie...
RIAN JOHNSON: (laughs)
QUINT: You talked to Capone recently and that interview just went up...
RIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, I saw that.
QUINT: I'd like to focus a little more on the cast than your influences while writing. Just kind of run through the leads... how you met them, what they brought to the part, all that kind of stuff.
RIAN JOHNSON: Sure.
QUINT: Let's start with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
RIAN JOHNSON: I had actually seen very little of Joe's work when we first sat down. I hadn't seen his TV show, really. I hadn't seen a lot of his teen movies. He had just finished shooting MYSTERIOUS SKIN, they were still editing it, so I hadn't seen that either. What I had seen was a movie he did with Don Cheadle called MANIC, where he gave this really intense, angry performance. It was really good and it really impressed me.
But the main thing with Joe and the main, kind of, light bulb going off in my head was just when I sat down and talked with the guy. He's just so smart and so incredibly... Basically, the context of the conversation was I had been searching for the perfect person to play this role for, at that point, nearly 6 years. I met Joe right before we started shooting, actually. We had about 3 months until we were actually going to start filming the movie and I was panicking because we finally had the money together, we had most of the rest of the cast and I knew that if we didn't find the perfect person for that main part, the movie would fall apart again and it might be another year before we got to make it.
Then to sit down and all of a sudden be talking to this guy who is obviously a really talented actor, but more than that was completely ready to just throw himself into this movie, heart and soul, and just work his ass off on it.
QUINT: Well, as a first time director, how did you get that meeting with him? Did you just send the script to his agent?
RIAN JOHNSON: Yeah... actually there wasn't one of (the cast) where it was going through any sort of interesting back channels. It was all just through the regular casting process. We had a really good casting director, this woman Shannon Makhanian, and she... talk about lucking out. I mean, for me finding her was a real stroke of luck. She worked on the movie for 2 solid years before we got our funding.
So, I saw a lot of really talented young actors. We did the casting just, like, out of her apartment. (laughs) We'd go up to her living room and meet with people. In a way it's cool because, in a way, it was a bit of an embarrassment of riches because there are actually a lot of really talented actors in that age range. To a large degree, you wouldn't know it because there aren't a lot of interesting roles for them. Movies today, I think... it's pretty dry in terms really challenging material for very young actors. Except in the indie world where you get interesting roles now and then.
So, yeah. We saw lots of talented people, but when Joe read the script and, I guess, responded to it and we set up the meeting and sat down and talked... I would have been a real moron, I think, not to have cast him in the film after that meeting.
QUINT: How about Emilie de Ravin? She wasn't known when you cast her, but she's very, very known now...
RIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, no kidding, man. She had not done LOST when... And she was actually cast after Joe. Emilie, I think, might have been the very last piece of the puzzle to snap into place, which was cool because I could get Joe actually involved in the audition process and feel out who he clicked with. That relationship in the movie was so important.
But yeah, she totally faked me out. She's Australian and she came in and did not only the audition, but the whole meeting with an American accent. I cast her thinking I had cast an American in the part and then we were just chatting afterwards and she was all, "I'm going to Sydney next week." And I said, "Oh, have you ever been?" She drops the American accent and goes, "Yeaah, moy family's from thaa, you know..."
QUINT: "You sneaky bitch!"
RIAN JOHNSON: "You goddamn Aussie sneak! Arrr! Curse you!" Yeah, so she completely hoodwinked me... Paul Hogan style.
QUINT: (laughs) I don't know if I brought this up last time we met, but my favorite character is Matt O'Leary as The Brain.
RIAN JOHNSON: He was actually 16 when we shot the movie...
QUINT: I know, that's what kind of fooled with me when I saw it because I actually met him on the set of SPY KIDS 2 a while back and he was just a kid...
RIAN JOHNSON: He's so different from that persona in real life. In real life he's got very much like a James Dean type of persona going on. He's such... I don't know how you'd describe it. He's such a rebel, he's such a cool kid. He's got that vibe.
Yeah, and that was another one of the things where I hadn't seen much of his work, but just from meeting with him and just how jazzed he was about the script... and also seeing how he interacted with Joe when I put them in a room together for the first time.
QUINT: That must have been priceless to you... in a movie where it's so important to give a sense of history that the audience never sees... to be able to put your cast together and see what works...
RIAN JOHNSON: Exactly. That's a huge element of it. You know, we had the luxury of rehearsal time with this movie. We had those 3 months leading up to our production where the cast, just because everyone was so dedicated to the movie, were totally willing to just use those 3 months to rehearse. For me, a big part of that was also just getting the together to hang out and getting them comfortable with each other.
Even before we sat down and started running lines, when Joe and Matt and I just went out to a movie and out to hang out and I saw how the two of them just hung out together and interacted. I knew that relationship would work.
QUINT: Was there anybody you cast that worked, but worked in a different way than you had written? Did you have to rewrite the script at all around any of the cast?
RIAN JOHNSON: No, there wasn't any rewriting that happened. One of the real fun things for me was seeing how people brought different stuff to the roles than I expected. You know, that's why we make movies instead of writing novels, I guess. That's part of what makes it fun. I had the movie kind of made in my head, but I can watch that movie anytime. It's more fun to kind of toss all this stuff in the air and bring all these new elements to it and see what comes out at the end of this strange chemical process.
For instance, when I cast Meagan Good in the role (of Kara) she very much kind of captured the essence of what that character was about, but even took it further than I had originally thought and played it up even more. I love that final scene at the end with the broken mirror, where everything kind of comes down with that character. Originally I had envisioned her playing that whole scene completely cool and she came up with the idea of the character sobbing at the beginning of it and then, on a dime, dropping the act and dropping the tears and going into cool mode. That was a beautiful thing.
QUINT: One thing I really like about the flick so far is the marketing. I love that the trailer keeps the mystery of the movie and I love the poster designs.
RIAN JOHNSON: Yeah! Yeah!
QUINT: There's been maybe 2 movies in the last 6 months where I can say that I loved the marketing. V FOR VENDETTA is one of them and BRICK is the other.
RIAN JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, man. The posters for (V FOR VENDETTA) were unbelievable.
QUINT: I just love that the trailer is intriguing, but it doesn't give anything away.
RIAN JOHNSON: Yeah. I was so thrilled with it. I mean, I had nothing to do with it. Focus just cut it and I was terrified because the movie had been such a homespun enterprise... I was the one who edited it on my home computer, so I had total control over it up to that point and then to hand all the footage over to someone, wait several months and then sit down in a room to watch the trailer they cut... I mean, honestly I was expecting the worst and when they showed it to me I was just like, "Holy Crap!" I was incredibly pleased with it.
And I think it's smart, also, that they sold it as a detective movie as opposed to a high school movie. I think that's kind of crucial.
QUINT: So, how's the follow-up flick you were working on?
RIAN JOHNSON: You know, it's coming really well, actually. We're in the thick of casting right now. It's an interesting process. Yeah, it's coming shockingly well to me. I guess shockingly mostly just because it took me so long to get BRICK made. It feels very strange to write something and less than a year later be maybe shooting it.
QUINT: What's the title?
RIAN JOHNSON: It's called THE BROTHERS BLOOM, the working title right now. It's a con-man movie.
QUINT: So, I guess you're looking to shoot BROTHERS BLOOM really soon then if you're casting now.
RIAN JOHNSON: Hopefully, man. We're hoping to shoot this year, as I knock on wood. But if there's one thing those 6 years trying to get BRICK made taught me it's that until you're rolling film you're not shooting a movie.
And there you have it. BRICK is out there... possibly in your city! It really is a cool flick, so go give it a view.
I'm juggling a few different things at the moment, including working with our own Merrick on a couple brand new regular columns. Keep your eyes peeled. Good stuff on the horizon, squirts!