Maybe not just I, Fatty... See portion in dark blue italics below.
Straight from England, Dunmore speaks with Intermission
March 10, 2006
By Silvia Sanchez
Intermission catches Laurence Dunmore in England (i.e. imagine this in a British accent) on the cellular and asked him about his first film.
Intermission: How was your first directing experience?
Laurence Dunmore: It was a wonderful experience, not without blood, sweat and tear;, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything. I think conceiving this movie is somewhat akin to being a dad, which is my other pursuit that I am in love with. It was made incredible by the factor of having the trust and respect of some of the most incredible cast and crew to work with. That certainly empowered me to realize my vision. It allowed me to make something that transported everyone to another world which was mid-17th century England and the likes of John Wilmot.
INT: Do you have any funny anecdotes about the filming experience?
LD: Oh gee, that’s a tough one. Yes there are many funny anecdotes, but it’s actually remembering them. I remember it far more for the good humor of everybody. I mean in particular how the likes of Johnny [Depp], Samantha [Morton] and John [Malkovich] kind of inspired the other cast and crew with their, shall we say, good humor and good nature. I mean, Johnny was always one for being able to step into the role and step out of it in a way that sort of enabled him to finish the filming with the crew sort of cracked up with laughter — even if we had just filmed something sad a couple minutes earlier. It was full of a lot of emotion in that way, I mean there was one particular scene, not necessarily a funny anecdote, where he goes back home and he’s dying and he has an argument with his wife and it’s a very emotional scene where he’s literally falling apart in front of her and very angry and very depressed and she likewise is pleading for him to just be himself and to live and to stop destroying himself in that way. At the end of it, Johnny leaned over — having given this incredible performance and tapped me on the side. I was operating the camera and he just said, “Breathe” because I’d literally been holding my breath for the whole take. Another one with him doing the dance in the playhouse with Samantha Morton, I literally caught fire because I hit the chandelier with the camera, and to have Johnny and Samantha pull me out of the fire was an interesting experience, shall we say.
INT: While filming “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Johnny Depp wanted gold caps on his teeth, so for leverage with the directors, he put more caps on his teeth than he wanted. Did he pull any stunts like that with you?
LD: No he didn’t. The character of Rochester was one we had a very collaborative process on. I mean there was no need for anybody to be doing anything other than the vision that we had for the character and the film as a whole. I think we had decided with Peter Owen, who designed the makeup and the character’s deterioration for the latter half of the film, on a very specific timeline and structure and knowledge of what we were going to do in terms of Johnny’s physical appearance. Obviously, Johnny enjoyed and relished the opportunity not to be restricted by having to keep a beautiful face and a beautiful body. But it was more because of the character and the physical deterioration of that character that he relished the part more than the sensational element of doing something to himself just to create something.
INT: Johnny Depp said he had wanted to change people’s impression of John Wilmot. Do you think he achieved it?
LD: I think his performance is one that has a profound effect on people one way or another. It elevates Wilmot into a position of entering into the minds and thoughts of people. We wanted to do it for all kinds of reasons. One, we felt, because of Rochester and his life, a sense of modernity. In so many ways, aspects of his life and writing, and the betrayal of his talents relate to contemporary lives. So, I think he portrayed a very complex and deep character that had a surface that could be smelled and disliked, seen and disliked, but had a depth within him that really only Johnny, in my mind, could bring to that character. He allowed for the question of the possibility of love and redemption. I hope Rochester is at least now a more visible character and the recognized character that he deserved to be. He was one of the most incredible writers of his time and indeed anytime.
INT: How do you think the American public will react to film?
LD: That I couldn’t say. I’d say that like any public, they will judge it on the basis of the film. And, I hope it will be viewed within the context of the period, the man’s life and the story that we’re trying to tell. I want people to walk through a couple of years of mid 17th century English history. It’s the story of a man and his inner fight, the relationships between him and the people around him and the betrayal of his own abilities and talents. So it really depends, if it’s taken on a sensational level, it will have more impact. If it’s taken on the emotional, possibly sexual level, then it will have another.
INT: You keep mentioning the betrayal of his talents, could you explain that a little bit more?
LD: Well Rochester was a man who in my mind had a genius for his art and a passion for life. He was somebody who in the reality of his output and the nature of his work, often didn’t realize to leave for enough himself, the writer, the full extent of his abilities. I think he didn’t tie his work to cutting satire and ridicule of society — especially the court of Charles II. His most beautiful work is enclosed in his poetry and letters to his wife and his friends. It’s a little bit like seeing somebody with such incredible ability not fully realizing it. It’s hard for us — not being able to benefit from his full potential.
INT: Did you watch the play when John Malkovich was in it?
LD: I didn’t, I knew of Rochester at that time but I didn’t know about the play until John and I worked together and he told me about the play.
INT: Since he was in the play, did he help you in the development of John Wilmot’s character?
LD: No because luckily for me, back in its early days Johnny had seen the play and he knew of Rochester. One of the things I had to bring to the film was that I wasn’t encumbered with a preconception of what had come before. Neither was Johnny because when John asked him to originally be in the film and asked him if he could play the character he said, “Yes, but not like you did it.” Because they both have such tremendous presence and power, their interpretation of the role is so different. I think John’s contribution to the film was very much as someone who trusted and believed in the vision that I — and the rest of the crew — had. He contributed as much as he wanted. It was never an imposition of his thoughts or ideas on the film. He had tried for years to make the film himself and had decided when we met that he would pass that role on. I benefited from his experience and his contribution immensely but it wasn’t one that was interfering.
INT: How did you and John Malkovich meet?
LD: We worked together on a commercial about 5 years ago. We did a little film for a train company that runs between London and Paris and we worked together for a couple of days and we got on very well. I obviously let it slip that I was desperately looking to one day be moving away from commercials and into films and without forcing the point too much, said to John that I’d only unlock the dressing room door when he gave me a script, which he did. He left after we worked together and it was a wonderful experience — especially for me, because working with an actor of his caliber and abilities is kind of a dream for a director, especially one used to working with inanimate objects. So to have that sort of opportunity afforded me by working with John and then for him come through with a couple of scripts. It was one of those moments where you suddenly think, “Okay maybe this dream that I’d had could become a reality. If he thinks I can do it, maybe I can.” It was a very daunting project — “The Libertine” — because it was not an easy film. It was still a play when I read it, so it was something that had to develop into being a film. It was a complex film, it was a film with many of the things that I haven’t had the opportunity to do. I mean, work on an in-depth story, with characters, emotions and performance.
INT: Was working on a period piece like that different than you’d envisioned?
LD: I wouldn’t say a lot different, I mean each day brought along its own surprises and different experiences. When you spend so much time prepping a film and dreaming it and getting to that point where you first put the camera on your shoulder and stand knee deep in mud and smell the air and choke on the smoke, you’ve kind of been there so many times in dreams. The biggest difference I guess is the thrill that you get when you hear the film running through the camera and you see actors delivering the lines in costume and delivering the character. You get taken to a place where even dreams pale into insignificance because you’re transported into a whole other world.
INT: So is this something that you’d like to continue doing then?
LD: I would like to, yes — if anybody’s willing to give me another go. I will continue to make select films and I hope that they will be as varied as they are similar.
INT: Do you think you’ll get to work with Johnny Depp or John Malkovich again?
LD: I would personally pay a lot of money to work with either again and even give various limbs. They both brought an awful lot and I’m sure that we’ll all work again either separately or together on various projects.
INT: I really liked Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of John’s wife. Did you have a favorite personality like that?
LD: It’s interesting because a lot of the actors were kind of first choice or first thoughts of either Mary Selway who cast the film, or myself. Rosamund was someone who I was particularly single-minded on because I believed, in the little that I’d seen of her which included a play that she was doing at the time, that there was something within her that naturally had the access to the character that I was looking for. I think that Rosamund really demonstrated that enormous talent and ability that she has. She was not afraid to put up in front of the likes of Johnny Depp, who, however warm and empowering he is with his contribution, is still a force that is quite something to be around and be put with. For me as a director and for anybody else, he has this incredible intensity and charisma, which carries or aids this talent that he has.
INT: So do you have any future work planned?
LD: I have a couple of projects that I’m working on at the moment one of which is an adaptation of this book from the 1950s by J.P. Dunleavy called “The Gingerman,” which will hopefully happen in the next couple of years. I am also working on a film based on the book by Jerry Stahl called “I, Fatty” about Roscoe Arbuckle.
INT: Well, thank you very much for your time.
LD: My pleasure and thank you.
INT: Good luck with your projects and say hello to Johnny Depp for me if you get the chance.
LD: Haha. I will.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!