Guy Ritchie Interview, RevolverPosted by: PuppetMaster
SamuelGoldwyn set us up with an interview with Guy Ritchie where he talks about his newest film Revolver REVOLVER is the highly anticipated thriller from director Guy Ritchie, starring Jason Statham ("Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels", "Snatch" and the upcoming "Chaos"), Ray Liotta ("Goodfellas", "Narc", "Heartbreakers") Andre Benjamin (of Outkast, and soon to be in "Four Brothers" and "Charlotteâ€™s Web") and Vincent Pastore ("The Sopranos", "Shark Tale").
Where did the inspiration for Revolver come from?
It was a culmination of concepts, which I boiled down to one, the con of all cons. I'm fascinated by how you can trick the mind both collectively and individually. I thought this concept was so audacious, so radical, and so ubiquitous that I had to somehow make a film out of it. The formula of the con I used in the film to illustrate this concept is quite simple â€“ the con man seduces people by using their own greed, but in fact itâ€™s a little more subtle than that. How you really con people is to feed them an opinion of themselves that makes them feel superior in some way, so you have to make them feel clever, special or attractive, etc. What I found fascinating is, if you take the concept further, the aspect of the mind that the con man manipulates and flatters, is also the aspect of the mind that is not interested in the truth of the situation. This part of the mind makes up its own "cons," to fulfil its own objective using false, but convincing narratives within our own minds! The concept is simple, but that is not usually how the mind reports it, it complicates a very simple premise. So the film might seem complicated, but I assure you it isn't. And that is the con.
Why did you call it Revolver?
Iâ€™ve always been surprised that no other movie has ever been called Revolver because it just sounds cool. So I like the name, but I also like the concept that, if youâ€™re in a game, it keeps revolving until you realize that you are in a game and then maybe you can start evolving.
Is it a film with a message?
The answer is a bit similar to the first question. I think it was (and donâ€™t quote me on this) Will Smith who summed it up concisely when asked by children, "what was the secret to success?â€ His reply was, "you know that voice in your head that tells you to stop running when youâ€™re tired? Well donâ€™t listen to it.â€
The concept that the real enemy lies within an individual is recognized by both psychiatrists and some of the more spiritual philosophies. Thatâ€™s quite a hard concept to get your head around initially because if there is ultimately only an internal enemy, it wouldnâ€™t want you to get your head around it. So the film is based on the formula that you can only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent. Who is the ultimate opponent? Yourself. Then comes the idea that your enemy will always hide in the last place that you would ever look. The last place you would look is inside your head and the last place you would look inside your head is behind fear. In this particular instance, the only opponent Jake Green has to challenge is himself and thatâ€™s by doing exactly what he doesnâ€™t want to do. His fear is essentially a hologram, but it has a lot of potency and control for a hologram. Jake doesnâ€™t really do anything life threatening in the film, only the "ideaâ€ is threatening which seems to have just as much or more control over him than a life threatening situation. Why canâ€™t he make a fool out of himself? Give his money away? Overcome phobias? Who is or what is stopping him?
To that extent, are Jakeâ€™s experiences an allegory for life?
Itâ€™s funny, I never expected as a writer-director to end up talking about high-flatulent concepts. I got into filmmaking because I was interested in making entertaining movies, which I felt there was a lack of. Jake Green isnâ€™t just Jake Green, Jake represents all of us. The color green is the central column of the spectrum and the name Jake has all sorts of numerical values. All things come back to him within the filmâ€™s world of cons and games. Jakeâ€™s on a journey of how to play the game. Heâ€™s very good at playing games and heâ€™s done very well out of playing by a certain formula, but he didnâ€™t realize how big and consistent that formula is. He only saw the formula in its microscopic form and didnâ€™t realize that it could be macroscopic.
How does he get drawn into the game?
One of the first rules of business is to protect your investment. I like the idea that we do the same with our personal philosophies. Once we have decided whatâ€™s right, irrelevant of whether we are right or wrong, the more energy we will invest to protect that, which is basically how con men work. They get you to invest a little bit, and then a bit more - they never tell you to buy something, just to take a look. Once youâ€™ve contributed some of your energy to looking - appraising a certain article - then a small investment has been made. From a small investment comes a larger investment, from a larger investment comes a greater investment until eventually youâ€™ve invested so much that you canâ€™t be wrong. Because if you are wrong, it must mean youâ€™re stupid and nobody can admit that theyâ€™re stupid.
Jake is prompted to invest, to counteract the threat of a fatal disease thatâ€™s hanging over him,â€¦
The only way to handle this concept within an hour and 45 minutes of film is to cut to the chase, and thereâ€™s nothing quite like death looming on the horizon to precipitate events. Letâ€™s get the party started, and the only way that can happen is the imminent threat of death.
If Jake Green represents all of us, what do the other characters represent?
The other characters all represent a certain human characteristic. Jake, Avi and Zack represent one characteristic. Then thereâ€™s Dorothy Macha, Lily Walker and Lord John, who represent another aspect of our nature, different aspects of vice, of which there are lots of ingredients so I wanted to be specific about which character represents which vice.
Does that mean Jake, Zack and Avi are on the side of good and the others on the side of evil?
I hesitate to use the words good and evil because this is not a story about morals and ethics, this is simply a story about the game and there is no right or wrong. Itâ€™s about whether you win and how quickly you can win. Jake, Zack and Avi represent players who have decided to win in this game, and that leads into the slightly more radical concept of how they win the game. Weâ€™re all players within our own little games, so we embody all of these characteristics, we also embody all the aspects of vice and competition, wanting to play the game and succeed in the game. All of the characters within the film represent aspects of ourselves. For example, Sorter represents the aspect of our character in which we have taken a left-turn somewhere and later on decides that the right-turn might have been the better idea. He represents the u-turn within us when we think weâ€™ve gone the wrong way or when weâ€™ve decided to take a different path than the one weâ€™ve been on, which is of course a terribly difficult thing to do.
And who is Sam Gold?
I like the idea that Sam Gold is a collective hallucination. He doesnâ€™t really exist, but he does exist. He has no power of his own; he only has the power that you give him - heâ€™s as real as you believe him to be, or how much you have energized or invested in his concept. In the context of the film, he is the opponent, the ego, the false or conceptualized self, and the force that the individual in the movie has to overcome. Is Sam Gold evil or is he good? Thatâ€™s up to the individual to understand. I love the concept that if this was all a game, evil may not ultimately be evil. That if there is such a thing as the devil, the devilâ€™s only job is to be smarter so that we can become smarter. Thatâ€™s basically what inspired the film: that the devil isnâ€™t ultimately a bad guy, the devil is just a very clever guy and weâ€™re a bit dumb.
Where is the film set?
The movie is set in no-manâ€™s land. Itâ€™s a kind of transatlantic destination that is really supposed to be illustrative of East meets West somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic. In fact, we shot most of it in London and the Isle of Man, which isnâ€™t quite the middle of the Atlantic but itâ€™s going that way.
How did you create that transatlantic atmosphere?
Unlike my previous movies, thereâ€™s quite a lot of studio work on this one because of the very nature of the fact that I wanted an environment thatâ€™s transcontinental. To get this we had to revert to green screen.
Did you use a lot of special effects?
I donâ€™t mind whether I use special effects or not. My principal job is to make interesting and entertaining films, and Iâ€™m not proud of which format or which particular technique I use. I just wanted the film to look good and that was about the only request I had of my DP. We wanted it to be slightly over the top in terms of photography. What I liked about American movies when I was a kid was that theyâ€™re sort of larger than life and I think Iâ€™m still suffering from that reaction. Tim, the DP, was completely unbridled by me. The cheekier he got, the more I applauded him. Heâ€™s his own boss in that department.
So you donâ€™t fit the stereotype of the dictatorial filmmaker?
If somebody has a better idea on the day than what we have on the page, Iâ€™ll take it. If it surpasses the original idea then we try it - at the end of the day, itâ€™s me that takes the credit anyway! Iâ€™ve been working with lots of these guys for ten years now and Iâ€™ve become very aware of how much the team has to do with the creative process. Iâ€™m not under too much of an illusion of how smart or un-smart I am because filmmaking ultimately is about teamwork. I enjoy the process and Iâ€™ve usually done quite a lot of preparation before I arrive on set so Iâ€™m not a touchy filmmaker and Iâ€™m not an anxiety-ridden filmmaker, at least while Iâ€™m shooting the film. If you enjoy things, it tends to quell your negative traits.
Youâ€™ve also worked with Jason Statham on almost all your filmsâ€¦
Apart from the fact that I donâ€™t like him, donâ€™t trust him and have no respect for him as a chess player, Jason and I work quite well together. Actually, Jason forced me into using him. He threatened me with violence. The rest of the cast I have more affection for. AndrÃ© was a pleasure to work with. In fact, 95% of the people in my films have been nothing less than a pleasure to work with. That goes for Jason, too. I like him and because I like him, itâ€™s much easier to work with him. Heâ€™s a very capable actor and he embodies what I want to see when I go to the cinema. Iâ€™ve been a big fan of Ray Liottaâ€™s for a long time and been desperate to use him in something. He wasnâ€™t very keen about being put into spandex pants and Speedos, but once he got into the spirit of things it was hard to get him out of them.
What freedom do you give the actors to improvise?
I like to think that weâ€™ve got a plan, so letâ€™s stick to it. That said, once weâ€™ve stuck to it, weâ€™re allowed as much improvisation as anyone cares to indulge themselves in. Youâ€™d be surprised how little indulging one wants to undertake once youâ€™ve stuck to the plan. We always have a take thatâ€™s "one for funâ€, so once youâ€™ve got what you need, you can do what you like. Something does occasionally pop out of that tree. Iâ€™m always open to ideas.
You screened the film in Toronto before releasing in the U.S,....
Yes, after the screening we decided to cut one of the threads of the film that was illustrating the con and the trick, this was the story of the 3 Eddieâ€™s. We found it was a separate layer within the film that confused people.
Does chance exist?
I donâ€™t believe chance exists, no. I donâ€™t know whether it does, but personally I donâ€™t believe in it. Either thereâ€™s order in the universe or thereâ€™s chaos. Either everything is predetermined or, by the definition of free choice, you can determine it, but thereâ€™s still no element of chance. Or thereâ€™s the other way of thinking, which is its all chaos and thereâ€™s absolutely no order and itâ€™s all chance. You either subscribe to one or the other. I subscribe to the idea that there is order although it may look like total chaos, but Iâ€™ve no idea if Iâ€™m right. In the film, Jakeâ€™s niece is a good example. She represents innocence and I liked the idea that she could ride a roller-coaster thatâ€™s collapsing all around but still land on a bed of cotton wool against all the odds because innocence protects her. There are infinite examples, of course, where innocence is not nurtured or cared for, but it all comes back to chance. Do you believe in chance or not? Do you believe that the universe is fair or unfair?
Whatâ€™s the role of violence in your films?
My approach to violence is that if itâ€™s pertinent, if thatâ€™s the kind of movie youâ€™re making, then it has a purpose. Thereâ€™s quite a lot of violence in this film but I like to think that it serves the story, that it illustrates the point weâ€™re trying to convey. Jason doesnâ€™t take his shirt off and beat anyone up, which would seem to be the kind of thing that Jason would do as heâ€™s quite good at it, but it didnâ€™t seem to serve his character and the narrative. I quite like the idea of Jason keeping his shirt on anyway.
Does Jason still do all his own stunts?
Jason's game to do all his own stunts. I wouldnâ€™t allow him to because if he broke his leg or something Iâ€™d be screwed for eight weeks. Heâ€™s as game as a train to throw himself down flights of stairs. I am not so enthusiastic, so I threw other people down the stairs.
Is there any limit to how violent a scene can be?
I think thereâ€™s a natural system in your own head about how much violence the scene warrants. Itâ€™s not an intellectual process, itâ€™s an instinctive process. I like to think weâ€™re not violent for the sake of being violent. In this particular film, itâ€™s actually violence for the annihilation of violence. Itâ€™s about not letting the internal enemy, the real enemy, have his way because the more he does the stronger he becomes. The filmâ€™s about the devastating results that can manifest from the internal enemy being unbridled and allowed to unleash chaos.
As a writer-director, which aspect of filmmaking do you enjoy most?
You get a different kick out of all aspects of filmmaking. I suppose directing on set is the most fun because itâ€™s a good crack and you feel youâ€™re on the battlefield whereas writing is a fairly solitary undertaking. Itâ€™s not easy to strap yourself down to a desk and bash on a keyboard when you know you can direct lots of films, because directing films is fun, interactive and gregarious. Writing isnâ€™t. Itâ€™s very solitary and you need to exercise a great deal of discipline to do it. I think itâ€™s in the exercise of disciplining yourself to do it that the most profit lies. I love dialogue and I suppose writing dialogue is certainly the most fun.
Of the various formulas that make up the rules of the game, do you have a favorite?
I suspect my favorite line is, "You can only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent.â€ My next one would be, "The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.â€ The third one would be, "The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.â€ My fourth would be, "Always protect your investmentâ€ which would become, "Always protect your investment whether itâ€™s in your interest or not.â€
Besides Jakeâ€™s name, there are an abundance of symbols in the film. What purpose do they serve?
I think its fun that films have depth. Iâ€™ve left a whole snail trail of clues and symbols for those who care to indulge themselves. But is it integral to your enjoyment of the film? I think not. There are simply different levels that the film tries to serve.
Chess is a prime exampleâ€¦
The rules in chess are consistent with the rules of all cons. I like the idea that the characters could all be different pieces on a chess board. I think we all embody the attributes of pawns, bishops, knights and castles, kings and queens. Itâ€™s just a question of do we decide to be a pawn or do we decide to be a queen. I didnâ€™t choose to be the latter particularly, but there are different aspects to our personality and nature that the chess board represents, which is maybe why chess is such a popular and ancient game. Iâ€™m a very bad chess player, by the way. Jason Statham has probably been blowing his own trumpet about what a qualified chess player he is. In fact, heâ€™s an appalling chess player.
And the fact that the face-off between Jake and himself, his internal enemy, takes place on the 13th floor?
The elevator starts at 32 and stops between 14 and 12. In America, there are some buildings that still donâ€™t have a 13th floor. It is a curious number, partly because America is obsessed with it - they have 13 thirteenâ€™s on the back of the dollar bill and the country was founded on thirteen colonies. Mythologically, and mystically itâ€™s the luckiest number, itâ€™s the number of liberation. From a point of view of Jakeâ€™s incarceration, what better place to liberate yourself than floor 13, which doesnâ€™t even exist in an elevator. It just seemed like the perfect environment in which to meet your demon. A number that doesnâ€™t exist that is also the number of liberation.
That scene is one of the most impressive in the whole movieâ€¦
Itâ€™s my favorite scene in the film and I actually shot it three times. It initially had four lines written for it. When we got in there, we spent two hours messing around, trying to draw as much as I could out of Jason. I realized weâ€™d got into something that was very interesting and in the end I could probably have filmed 45 minutes of him screaming at himself in there. If you listen to everything heâ€™s saying he tells you all the tricks, not a line or word is wasted.
The film opens with Jake Green getting out of jail. Would you say that it ends with him enjoying another kind of liberation?
The film starts off with a jailbreak and ends with a jailbreak because all the skulduggery going on inside his head didnâ€™t allow him to know he was still incarcerated. Thatâ€™s what the film is about, the ultimate jailbreak and the radical actions one needs to undertake to liberate oneself from this jail. It tells the story of the skulduggery, trickery and head-trickery that accompanies Jake on his journey, and the seemingly unlikely actions our hero has to undertake to break out of his jail.