Capone sits down with Rachel Weisz to talk THE BROTHERS BLOOM, THE LOVELY BONES, and AGORA!!!
Published at: May 13, 2009, 1:35 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I'm truly happy that I get to run this interview now because it means something very important and something that makes me incredibly happy--that a film that I deeply love and first saw in October 2008 is finally making its way to a theater near you (hopefully). The film is THE BROTHERS BLOOM, from writer-director Rian Johnson, whose last film BRICK had one of the greatest scripts of the decade in my estimation. Johnson has gone in a decidedly different but no less interesting direction with BLOOM. Among his many goals with this twisting, turned tale is to make us laugh and to see if we can spot a con that's positioned itself directly in front of us. The film stars Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo, but the movie's true source of magic and wonder comes from the lovely Rachel Weisz, a rich woman who collects hobbies and lives an eccentric life in a castle-like mansion. Her life intersects (more like crashes) into that of the brothers, and so the story goes.
I saw THE BROTHERS BLOOM shortly before it opened the Chicago International Film Festival last October, and I got a chance to spend time talking to Johnson (I'll have that interview for you next week) as well as Weisz. Johnson I spoke with one-on-one, but Weisz I talked to with two other writers/critics in Chicago. If I'm not mistaken this conversation represents the last roundtable-style interview I've agreed to do, and I'm glad it was with these two guys who I've done many a roundtable with before and had a ton of fun doing so.
It didn't hurt that Weisz is really fun to talk to, open in her answers, and unforgivably gorgeous to look upon. She's also a gifted actress (check her out in such films as STEALING BEAUTY, I WANT YOU, SUNSHINE, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, ABOUT A BOY, THE SHAPE OF THINGS, THE CONSTANT GARDENDER, THE FOUNTAIN, and MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS), who knows how to have fun in her job as well (two MUMMY movies; FRED CLAUS; DEFINITELY, MAYBE; CONSTANTINE). And she has two more major releases scheduled, both for the end of the year: the epic period film AGORA and Peter Jackson's THE LOVELY BONES, both of which she talks about here. THE BROTHERS BLOOM does the NY/LA thing beginning May 15 and expands to other markets over the next couple of weeks.
One of Weisz's more endearing qualities is that she likes to toss questions back at those who are interrogating her, so it actually feels like a conversation. That doesn't happen nearly as often as you might think during these interviews. And what makes this even more amusing to me is that one of the other people that handles interviews that way is Weisz's partner, director Darren Aronofsy, who I've talked to twice and who always throws questions about your feelings toward his movies, the actors in it, and the choices he made in putting it together. Anyway, please enjoy the luminous Rachel Weisz…
Capone: I’m meant to deliver a message to you. I had dinner with Paul Rudd the other day, and he said to say ‘hello’, so message delivered.
Rachel Weisz: Aww, how is he?
Capone: Good, good.
RW: I haven’t seen him in ages.
Capone: He was asking about [THE BROTHERS BLOOM], and he was asking about THE WRESTLER. And, I had seen them both, so…
RW: What’s he got coming out?
Capone: ROLE MODELS, a comedy.
RW: Judd Apatow?
Capone: No, although you wouldn’t know from who’s in it.
Question 1: Apatow-esque.
Capone: Yeah, it’s really close.
Question 1: Lots of swearing six-year-olds.
RW: How great is Judd Apatow. I’m such a…Are you guys fans?
All: Yeah, oh yeah.
RW: I think he’s kind of a genius, right? Don’t you think? Or, is that too strong a word?
Question 2: I think some of it, yeah.
Question 1: Borderline genius.
RW: Borderline? He’s very, very gifted, shall we say.
Question 2: Yes. So, I talked to [director] Rian [Johnson] just before this, and at the end, I said, “I’m talking to Rachel. What should I ask her?” First, he said, "Ask her why Rian is so great." [Laughs] But, then, he got a little more serious…
You can answer that question if you want, but then he got more serious and said ask you about the pinhole camera. He said the way it was structured was your idea, the way that scene was shot…in the watermelon? And, then, he said ask about the card trick. He said that’s his favorite scene in the movie. So, do you have anything to say about any of that?
RW: Yeah. Why Rian is great: He’s…I mean, he’s obviously a…Well, I mean, he’s a really, really interesting writer. I think the dialogue that he writes is just…It’s very rare to come across…He’s like a real writer, like, he could be a playwright, you know? The writing is really, really strong and original and unusual and slightly magical. And, I think he can really…I mean, we saw on BRICK that he can really create a universe of its own. I think he’s an auteur. [We’ve only] seen two movies, but, I think, let’s say that. He can really create his own universe and sustain a mood and a tone and a feeling all of his own. It may or may not be a world you want to be in, but it definitely is a world. I love the worlds, personally.
And, he’s also a really, really good actors’ director. You know, I think, it would have been really easy for this film--maybe he said this--for the characters to get kind of ‘caricature-y’. I think particularly my character could have been really a caricature, but he kept us all very grounded. I think he really loves working with actors, and he’s just a natural at it. And, he really…he’s a real collaborator. He’s not the director/writer standing back. He just wants to get in there with everyone. He’s very democratic and a lot of fun. You just met him. He’s a fun guy. Yeah, it was a pleasure to go on that journey with him, irrespective of how the film turned out; I think it turned out great. I think, as an actor, a lot of it’s about the process, and it was great.
Question 2: Cool.
RW: So, that’s the Rian question. And then…shall I carry on?
Question 2: Yeah, if you’d like.
RW: The pinhole camera: Yeah, we shot that in a wide only, and we shot that almost on the very first day. And, I’m telling Adrien’s [Brody] character all about one of my hobbies, and so, one of my passions. And, it ended with us--the wide shot--so we were in profile, talking to each other, and the camera…It was a big wide shot, and I just kept…Well, first of all, I thought I had screwed it up, I didn’t think I had done well. And secondly, I felt like you just needed to come in and see us connecting with each other a little bit, because that’s what the scene was about. And, I basically bugged him every single day to reshoot it. And, on the last day, he did. And, it was in the film, and I think he was kind of…So, he was asking you for me to tell the story, which makes me sound very clever. That’s the point.
Question 2: Exactly. That’s a good writer/director, good collaborator.
RW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s setting me up for a good thing.
Question 2:…lobbed it up to you.
RW: Yeah, he did. He lobbed it up to me, exactly. That’s Rian, that’s Rian.
And, then, the card trick: I think a lot of people think that that was CGI or something? I actually had to learn to do that card trick. And, that was me, that was my hands, and you were meant to know that it’s me. I guess you people maybe think my face is CGI’d in the little mirror on the table? It was to show that I was there, doing it. And, that was really hard, ’cause I had never even…I didn’t even know how to shuffle a pack of cards until someone from the Magic Circle in England came and taught me this. And, I had to do it whilst delivering a three-page monologue on my dysfunctional childhood. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as an actor, and, sound chilled out, like, Oh yeah, I’m just good at magic. And, I was thinking…I was terrified.
Question 2: See, he knew that would be an interesting answer.
Question 1: Most of the movies you’ve done have been more or less serious films. I mean, you’ve done a couple of comedies before, but even in those, you’ve been more like the serious person in it. This one is a much broader, whimsical sort of comedy, and obviously, it’s more of a comedic thing than you’ve ever really done before…
RW: THE MUMMY was kind of funny, no? Did you see THE MUMMY?
Question 1: Yee-a-h…I wasn’t the hugest MUMMY fan.
RW: No, no, fair enough.
Question 1: But, for the most part, though…
RW: Yeah, yeah. I’m a dramatic actor. [laughs]
Question 1: I was just curious about doing something like this, which is far breezier and more whimsical. As an actor, was that a bigger challenge for you than doing a more straight, dramatic part?
Capone: It’s no FRED CLAUS…
RW: [laughs] Definitely, definitely, it was definitely a challenge, which is why I wanted to do it. I consciously wanted…After THE CONSTANT GARDENER and THE FOUNTAIN, I wanted to do comedy. And, it was exactly what I was not being offered. I was being offered drama and very dark…and, I can’t explain why, but I didn’t want to do any of that. I just wanted to do a comedy.
I did a little part, a teeny part in FRED CLAUS, you know, five minutes, and DEFINITELY, MAYBE is, like, a tiny…I did the two tiny roles. And, I just had a baby, so I was, like, I want to lead in a comedy--that’s what I want. And, then, this script came along, and was it challenging? Definitely, yeah. I think even comedians would say…Well, I guess that’s their genius. It’s challenging, definitely. I think a lot of actors would say--not comedians, but actors--would say that comedy is probably the hardest thing to do. I don’t know why.
Question 1: Maybe because of the fact that everyone has a different idea of what’s funny, whereas with the drama, if someone dies, I mean, obviously, everyone’s going to feel sad about that.
RW: Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Do you like comedy in general?
Question 1: Oh, yeah, no, I like comedy in general.
RW: Yeah, you see, I love comedy, and I kind of thought I wanted to give it a shot.
Capone: You mentioned the first time you read the script…and how you learned the magic trick. Did you also have to learn to juggle chainsaws on a unicycle? Did that concern you at all?
RW: Absolutely, yeah. There were a lot of challenges. It wasn’t just that. I had to learn to play accordion, piano, guitar, banjo, violin…ummm, skateboard. Never been on a skateboard in my life. They’re really dangerous, if you’ve not ever been on one.
I had to rap. I mean, it’s about three milliseconds of it, but it’s rap. And, whilst Adrien Brody watched and listened. And, he’s from Queens, and he knows hip-hop. He’s down with the whole…you know, he’s hip-hop. And I’m from England; I don’t have a hip-hop bone in my body. I was mortified, mortified. He was more mortified than me. It was as if I was dissing his roots.
Capone: You’ve always seemed like someone who is game for anything as an actor. You’re not afraid to get dirty or bloody or silly. Was this project something where you felt you could do it all in one movie practically, all of these things? Not just the comedy, but all sorts of…like crashing cars and…
RW: Yeeaah, I like…kind of my take. I like screwball, but I don’t really know if this is screwball. Is it screwball?
Capone: Well, Rian said it’s kind of like a Marx Brothers movie, especially since there are four of you.
RW: Yes, yeah. I guess that’s right. I always said to my agents, when I was looking for a comedy, I said, “You know, I would be really happy to slip on the banana skin.” And, they didn’t really…they kind of knew what I meant, but I couldn’t really explain it better than that. And, this is that, I think. It’s really…but, it’s not dumb. I mean, it’s…I don’t think it’s dumb. It’s, like, kind of…well, you guys will decide the adjective.
Question 1: When I was watching, I was thinking it was along the lines of, you know, a lot like one of those comedies in the ’60s that Blake Edwards made or Stanley Donen or people like that.
RW: Right, right, yeah, yeah. I’ll leave it up to you guys to draw all the comparisons. But, there was a lot of kind of slipping on banana skins, so to speak, a lot of pratfalls and goofiness. I like goofiness.
Question 2: Are you goofy in general? Do you have unusual hobbies and interests?
RW: I’m very goofy, I would say, but I do not have a hobby, and I…
Question 2: None?
RW: None, and I need one. I’m actually genuinely looking for a hobby. I need one.
Question 2: Not even when you were a kid? What were you into?
RW: I didn’t have any hobbies. I used to climb trees.
Question 2: Okay, well, that’s…
Capone: …not a hobby!
RW: …not really a hobby. You can’t do it indoors in your room when it’s raining.
Capone: You can’t collect that!
RW: You can’t collect it, yeah.
Question 2: It’s an obsession, that’s what it was.
RW: Yeah, I have obsessions, but nothing, you know, like, a third object where you do something, paint or play. I don’t have anything. I need one. I have gotten…Someone gave me a knitting set--it doesn’t feel quite right…
Question 2: So, how do you get into the head of a character who is practically defined by having so many hobbies?
RW: Well, you know, I just had to imagine it, you know, a place, an activist. I find it easy to imagine it to be someone else, yeah, yeah. But, I just need a real hobby. So, any suggestions, I will take it.
Question 1: Origami, scrimshaw.
RW: What’s scrimshaw?
Question 1: I’m not sure. I think it has something to do with hooks and thread and something like that. But, I keep hearing about it…I’ll read ‘scrimshaw’, which I guess no one does any more, so I’ll, like, use that in a sentence, and no one else knows what it is, and no one’s ready to bust me on it.
RW: Scrimshaw. I’m going to Google it.
Question 2: People don’t have hobbies as much as they used to in general. It’s too much distraction.
RW: Well, I guess, it’s everyone’s on the…
Capone:…Internet and everything, yeah.
RW: Yeah, ’cause people used to do watercolors or paint.
Question 2: There’s no time to collect stamps anymore. Who’s got time for that?
RW: I think it’s not good for us. I think we need hobbies. I think hobbies are probably really relaxing. It’s how people relax. Apparently, [when] you do a hobby, you stop thinking. That would be nice, right?
Capone: I swear I’m not usually the one who brings up the ‘clothes’ question…
RW: Oh, come on.
Capone: …but, the clothes in the whole movie are so…It makes it impossible to figure out when this is supposed to take place.
RW: Yeah, yeah.
Capone: And your clothes in particular are really great. Just look at the color in that poster. Did you at all dress Penelope?
RW: Yes. I was very, very involved. In fact, I’d say about a quarter of the clothes were actually mine. The boots that she wears with absolutely everything, in every single scene, were my boots. And, when I put them on at the fitting--we did the fitting at my flat--and when I put them on, I just went, ‘Omigod, I think this is Penelope’, ’cause they kind of just didn’t go with anything, which seemed right, you know. They didn’t match anything. And then, there was a fur coat that was mine, and a black dress with a white ruffle, Yeah, a bunch of things were mine. So, I had a lot of input. It was nice to be dressing some one who was kooky, rather than…
Question 1: You were talking a little bit earlier about working with Rian Johnson. I was curious, because you’ve worked with a lot of the great directors working these days, I mean, like, Bertolucci, Meirelles, Wong Kar Wai. I’m still saying that MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS is my favorite film this year, still.
Question 1: I’m the one. I’m him…
RW: Wow. How interesting. Great, no, I’m thrilled.
Question 1: But, in general, for you as an actress, what is a sort of ideal director/actor relationship that makes the experience most fulfilling for you?
RW: Really to have a collaboration, where you go on a journey with someone, and neither of you know at the beginning how it’s going to be. What I don’t enjoy so much is when someone has a set idea of how they want something to be. It’s nice to go on a journey with someone and discover it, and be allowed to feel very free, but feel that they’ve got your back--which basically translates into, If you suck, you’re doing crap work, they’re going to know how to bring you back.
So, instead of…I don’t know…With Rian, it was very special, because he’s…I don’t know, it’s very hard to explain what he’s like to work with. But, he just enjoyed it so much. He was just enjoying it. Some of these directors are really tense and nervous, and there's pressure and this and that. He was at his happiest on the set, watching the actors say his words. And, he was really careful with everything and very detailed, but didn’t kind of cramp your style. He wasn’t controlling. He just helped you, which is…That would be the best thing, to collaborate with someone.
Question 2: What was the most challenging part of this production, either a specific day or a general character issue, or anything you can think of?
RW: What was really challenging was, actually, that we were shooting six-day weeks. And, most films you do five-day weeks. We were shooting six-day weeks because it was low budget. And, on the seventh day, we traveled, because we went from Romania to Serbia to Prague to Montenegro. So, we were on the road. We were like a traveling circus. That was challenging, definitely. It was fun as well, really fun, to be on the road. But, it was a lot.
Question 2: Exhausting.
RW: It was pretty exhausting, but it was fun. It was really fun.
Question 2: How long did the shoot run?
RW: I think it was 2½ months, maybe. Two weeks of rehearsal and then, maybe, two months…I can’t remember now.
Question 2: That’s a long time to keep up a schedule like that.
RW: Yeah, it was intense.
Capone: I have to ask one question about THE LOVELY BONES, just because it’s…
Capone: With [director] Peter Jackson getting back into the LORD OF THE RINGS mode now, I don't want that to eclipse a movie that was sort of high-profile when it first started shooting, but I want to…
RW: What do you mean?
Capone: I’m saying that now that Peter’s back in such a hands-on mode with THE HOBBIT movies that people have sort of forgotten that he has a movie coming out before that.
RW: What is the press about THE HOBBIT?
Capone: Well, that he’s writing it…
Question 1: Just schmucks saying, “Oh boy, they’re making THE HOBBIT!”
Capone: Well, just that they’re making it, and that he’s involved, not directing, but he is heavily involved…
RW: Have they started directing THE HOBBIT?
Capone: No, he and his writing partners are writing it now--two [HOBBIT] movies. So, now THE LOVELY BONES, everybody forgets that he has another movie coming out. I heard a few things about that shoot from the guy you met of ours, but can you talk a little bit about how…
RW: From which guy? Oh-oh, you mean the guy from Ain't It Cool. Tell me his name again.
Capone: His name is Quint on the site. But, anyway, I wanted to ask about the making of that film, because my wife read the book, and it just blew her mind. And, a lot of people who read it get really upset by that book. So, what was that like? How does Peter direct these sort of straight dramas, as opposed to the science fiction and the fantasy material? How did he approach that with you?
RW: Well, there are two different worlds in the film. There’s earth, and then there’s heaven. My character--I’m the mother of this young girl—and so, I’m alive all the way through, so I never get to see heaven. So, in a way, that was like another film. I was just on earth, so there was nothing supernatural in my world. It was just earth.
It was very intense drama, you know, not funny--at all. Well, I think…there was lot of warmth in it. It’s about a character who…obviously, [after] the murder of her child, she basically just falls apart. She completely, totally, utterly falls apart at the seams, and she’s completely unheroic in every way, which I really, really liked. She just deals with it badly. You know, she has an affair with a detective, an investigator. She does everything wrong. And, I like that, because I thought that was very, very human.
But, in terms of working with Peter, he’s great. He’s really great. He’s very…he’s very sweet. He’s a really sweet man, very, very sweet. And, they wrote the script as well, so he and [writers] Fran [Walsh] and Philippa [Boyens], they were all on the set. And, they were very heavily involved, the three of them, with everything, with the look, and the clothes. They were very…kind of meticulous about detail, like the color of the sweater that you were wearing or the color of the wallpaper. He’s obviously an incredibly visual guy. You know, if you’ve seen his films. He’s got this great imagination.
Question 1: There was another one I just saw mentioned in an article I read in Vogue, a period drama, which I stupidly did not write down…
RW: It’s called AGORA. And, it’s directed by Alejandro Amenábar. Do you guys know who he is?
Question 1: Yeah.
RW: It’s pretty cool, I think.
Capone: Is that the Roman one?
RW: Yeah, it’s 300 AD Alexandria, but it’s Roman Empire, so it’s Egypt, 300 AD. It’s about a woman who’s a philosopher and an astronomer. It’s a true story. But, it’s an epic. It’s a big old number, yeah.
Question 1: Yeah, I was just curious to hear about that one, because I thought it sounded really interesting.
RW: Yeah, his script was phenomenal, I mean, really phenomenal. Max Minghella is in it. Do you guys know Max Minghella?
Capone: Younger actor, right?
RW: Yeah. He hasn’t done much. His father was Anthony Minghella, and he’s a great, great, great young actor. Oscar Isaac is also in it. It’s not big names. It’s a Spanish film. It was paid for by Telecinco, and it’s a big movie. I think it was $80 million. It was not, like, a little movie done the Spanish way, they just filmed it their own way. And, yeah, I think it’s going to be really interesting.
Question 2: It’s interesting that you talk about Peter being visually detailed, and that certainly sounds like it must be very visually detailed, and this detail is stunning. And, [director] Darren’s [Aronofsky] work on THE FOUNTAIN is visually magnificent. Is that a coincidence, or do you think you’re attracted to filmmakers with sort of an unusual eye, so to say?
RW: I mean, I think film…I guess, it is a totally visual medium, so I think I’m just attracted to good directors, [who] by the way…
Question 2: That’s a good answer!
RW: I’d say, like Rian and Darren and Peter are very different, but they’re really, really good.
Question 2: Yeah, but unique, you know.
RW: Totally unique. They have their own…
Question 2: There aren’t a lot of directors with their vision.
RW: They have a vision, yeah.
Question 2: I just think it’s curious that, maybe, you’re looking for something unique visually, more than actors or actresses might?
RW: Well, it’s not…Actually, I’m completely un-visual, believe it or not, and I know what clothes I like, just about, but I think I’m drawn to the…I mean, I was breaking it down into details, like sweaters…It’s so much more complex. But, I’m definitely drawn to directors who have a vision. I mean, Darren’s very detailed as well, but it’s the overall picture. It’s a world, I mean, they’ve literally created a world. Wong Kar Wai does that. You step in, and you’re in Wong Kar Wai’s world. And, that was America, but it looked like Wong Kar Wai’s world.
Question 1: Right. Wong Kar Wai’s Memphis.
RW: Yeah, it was. Like, how do you do that? It’s a camera with film! Like, how does it look like Wong Kar Wai’s world? That’s what directing is…that they make it look like their thing, just in the way they light and the way they direct the actors. It’s extraordinary. It’s, like…Wow. But, I’m not very visual. I don’t notice things like that. But, I notice a mood, like, when you watch a film. Like, Kar Wai’s all about moods, it’s all this mood that he gets.
Capone: I want to talk about your character Penelope’s relationship with Bloom, because he’s in a constant state of pulling you close and pushing you away. What does she see in him? I think that’s a little less obvious, other than just something new in her long list of things to keep her from not being bored.
RW: That’s a really good question.
Capone: Is she attracted to him, or is she attracted to them?
RW: I think at first, it’s them. You know, she’s been stuck in this house her whole life, and these guys, they don't just take her out shopping; they take her out on this extraordinary adventure that’s just so exciting. But, I think slowly, but…I think it’s his…I think it’s that he’s so damaged, in a way, and so vulnerable, and so kind of needy. I think almost at the end, she become, like…I don’t want to say ‘maternal’, but she becomes kind of like…she just takes care of him, I think, by the end. I think he’s going to be fine, and I think he needs her, and, I think, she likes to be needed, maybe. Do you think so, or not?
Capone: I don’t know. That’s that one wonderful thing I get to think about after the movie. I don’t mind not having every question answered. But, that was one of the things that I really did contemplate, What was she getting out of being with them, other than an adventure? Though, really, that’s enough of a reason, I guess.
RW: Oh, yeah, yeah, adventure. But, why she falls in love with him, I thought you meant, maybe.
Capone: A little bit, yeah, a little bit.
Question 2: I think they’ve both been in an insulated world for years--his defined by his brother and hers defined by her place.
RW: Yes. It’s like two…She’s the girl in the bubble, he’s the boy in the bubble, and they both go, “Oh, hello!” It’s, like, a recognition thing, slightly, I think, yeah.
Question 1: I just wanted to shift gears for a second. We mentioned THE FOUNTAIN a bit earlier. Again, that was a movie I thought was really great and, obviously, a big labor of love for you and Darren. It came out, and it then it just kind of disappeared from theaters after a couple of weeks. I just curious to know what your thoughts are about having put so much work into something that isn’t trying to be just another identical movie, putting all that effort into it, and having people just kind of ignore it.
RW: You know, I meet so many people that loved it, I mean really, so many…I guess the ones who don’t like it maybe don’t say anything, but I meet so many people who are really crazy about it, and they really loved it, and it really speaks to them. I feel like if you do something different, then not everybody is going to accept it immediately. And, I also think that there are lots of films that are now considered very interesting, which we know were not accepted at the moment they came out. Time will tell. But, even before the time is told, I meet an awful lot of people just stop me in the street and just say, “That movie just meant so much to me." So, I think it finds people. It definitely wasn’t a blockbuster, but, yeah.
Thank you guys. Nice to see you. Did people laugh when they were watching BLOOM?
Capone: Yeah, but we saw it in a room filled with critics, and they don't laugh at anything. I know the three of us liked it a lot. Thanks.