Getting to interview Duncan Jones for his upcoming film Moon was quite a joy. Last month I posted a part of that interview where he gave details on what Ridley Scott thought of Moon, the Blu-Ray release, the release of Clint Mansell’s beautiful score, and he also talked about his possible next science fiction film Mute. Jones showed me some beautiful concept art that Gavin Rothery did for Mute and he also showed me a short video that he previewed to Terry Gilliam, you can find my write up on that footage on the part of that interview. Here’s what else he had to say about his truly excellent film. Moon opens up in New York and Los Angeles on June 12th. Again, I still cant stress enough how great of a film it is and it must be seen in theaters.
So what was the experience of showing the film at Sundance like?
Duncan Jones: It was an incredibly nerve racking experience, because we had shown the film to about thirty people who were all involved with the film so no one else had really seen it. Then all of the sudden, our first screening is in-front of thirteen-hundred people. My dad was there, my family was there, the cast and crew who there. It was terrifying (laughing). Sony Classics had been sniffing around the film, but hadn’t made any decisions about distributing the film. They basically wanted to see what the Sundance reaction was going to be. So it felt like everything was relying on this one screening. It was terrifying.
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Did you have any inspirations for the film? I know you have mentioned Alien before.
Duncan Jones: Oh, yeah. I had met up with Sam Rockwell to discuss this other project…
You wrote it for him correct?
Duncan Jones: Yeah, Moon was for him. It was basically after that meeting I decided to write it for him. One of the things Sam and I talked about was that he wanted to play a real blue-collar guy. We talked about how all those old science-fiction films, like Alien, Outlander, and Silent Running had those kinds of characters. We don’t get those types of characters anymore. So that was the idea, we wanted to incorporate the average joe idea into a science fiction film.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the miniatures looked great. How long exactly did it take to construct the miniatures and also the station set?
Duncan Jones: The construction was ridiculously fast because we had this pocket of time at this studio. We had to get everything done in a certain time frame, because of all the deals we had to strike for the film. Everything was so reliant on making deals and pulling in favors. It all had to fit in this really tight time frame, so we had to fit in this tight perimeter. I think the actual build for the set was about six weeks which was fast for what we had to do. The models themselves were probably roughly around the same time, but we started the set build first. As that was coming to a finish we starting to get the model miniatures built, because we shot all the miniatures later on in a sound stage that was right next store.
Was it difficult striking a balance with practical effects and CGI? The film uses a lot more practical effects than most sci-fi films we see today.
Duncan Jones: Yeah, it is. It was something I had experienced before with the commercials I have done for Calling Beer. If you look it up on youtube, then you should be able to find it.
I know you have worked with Tony Scott before, did you gain a lot from that experience?
Duncan Jones: Absolutely, even though I only worked with him for a brief period of time, but it was incredibly educational. The guy, if you love or hate his films, you can’t deny the fact that he is very technical and he knows what he is doing.
He has a very kinetic style of his own that’s divisive.
Duncan Jones: Yeah, absolutely.
Clint Mansell’s score, in particular, I thought was great. Maybe his best, actually.
Duncan Jones: Really? Yeah, he is very proud of it too.
Yeah, it was fantastic. Could you discuss that collaborative process?
Duncan Jones: I have a huge amount of faith in what he does, so I kind of stepped back a little bit and let him do his thing. If I ever felt like something wasn’t quite working, I would give him my advice. He’s based in LA and I’m based in London, so I got out to LA for a couple of weeks here and there. I think I was out there maybe two or three times, but we kept in touch over email. He kept on sending me pieces of music and we would stick it into the cut to try it out so there was quite a lot of back and forth. You know, it’s Clint Mansell, and he knows what he is doing so I felt very at ease.
Was it tough telling him to what to do with music?
Duncan Jones: Absolutely. Well, it’s tough telling anyone what to do on your first feature film. I mean telling Sam Rockwell, “You’re not acting the way I want you to act (laughs).”
(laughs) You should have had him do one of his signature spin moves.
Duncan Jones: (laughs) Well, I got him to do the naked bit, so he showed his ass and did a dancing bit. I filled my contractual role there (laughs).
(laughs) Why specifically did you write the role for him? Besides the fact he’s great.
Duncan Jones: Well, that is the massive reason to be honest and I am a huge fan of his. I think he is one of the most underrated and talented actors, so that hat was one of the main reasons. Again, he mentioned the fact that he wanted to play a blue-collar guy. There is just stuff I have seen him do in the past, whether it is a small role or if it’s The Green Mile, Charlie’s Angels, or a lead role like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. You’re never ever bored when Sam Rockwell is on the screen, so that was one of the key reasons. I felt an absolute heart felt confidence that if there was any guy you could base this film around it was Sam, because I have never been bored of him. I have always been waiting to see what he is going to do next.
He’s very charismatic.
Duncan Jones: Yeah, hugely charismatic and very smart. Always trying things and always bringing something new to the role.
Could you talk about how Gerty is actually not a cliche, since he is good, that some may interpret him as? And how did Spacey get involved?
Duncan Jones: (laughs) I don’t know what to say about the cliche bit, because anyone who puts a robot in their film will be compared to 2001 or any other science fiction films from the past.
I think it stands on its own very well.
Duncan Jones: Thank you very much. I think what we did was that we didn’t pretend that this wasn’t going to be the case. We knew people would make that comparison so what we tried to do was make Gerty play with your expectations. You’re going to compare it to Hal and then realize,”Oh my goodness, this isn’t Hal.”
He is like the nice version of Hal.
Duncan Jones: (laughs) Yeah, he is like Hal’s retarded cousin. Maybe that is a little unfair…
It’s fair (laughs).
Duncan Jones: (laughs) Yeah, you’re right. I think he is Hal’s nicer brother. Nicer younger brother (laughs).
Now, how did you get Kevin Spacey to voice him?
Duncan Jones: We were very lucky that we had a producer involved with the film named Trudie Styler who is Sting’s wife. She is very well connected and engaged with young British filmmakers. She was the one who gave Guy Ritchie his big break and helped him get Lock Stock off the ground. She is very connected, and she got the script to Kevin Spacey before we made the film. Kevin read the script and we had a meeting. He loved the script and loved Sam Rockwell, but he was very concerned on how we were going to pull this off with the money we had, so he asked if we can come back to him when we had the film finished, since it is just a voice and he doesn’t need to be there for the shoot. That was kind of the way it was left and we got on with it. Then we cut the film together and showed him a rough cut, and he was literally so blown away by Sam Rockwell’s performance that it was enough for him to say, “I wanna be involved.”
What exactly was the budget? If you don’t mind me asking.
Duncan Jones: No not at all, we were just about under five million.
How great do you feel that you made a movie so cheaply that looks great while a big budget movie like Wolverine looks like crap?
Duncan Jones: (laughs) I have not seen Wolverine yet, so I am not going to judge that film! You know, the film I keep on referencing is Sunshine, which is obviously my nemesis…
You taking down Danny Boyle, ay?
Duncan Jones: (laughs) I love Danny Boyle’s films. I think he is a super incredibly talented filmmaker, but I have said this before on twitter that Sunshine is like the best two-thirds of a science fiction movie, but the last third, I had no idea what the hell was going on. It became a totally different film.
It became a horror film, and that change felt abrupt.
Duncan Jones: Yeah, it just totally changed completely. It wasn’t even a twist. It just become a different film all of the sudden.
It was still a really good movie, though. Definitely a big-screen experience, like Moon.
Duncan Jones: That was independent science fiction film, but it was made for 50-million, which is kind of my comparison.
I know a lot of people have been making comparisons mostly towards 2001, but I kind of hinted at Solaris a little.
Duncan Jones: Yeah.
What do you think when people make these comparisons? Are you flattered or do you feel a little frustrated?
Duncan Jones: No, I mean, I totally understand people making these comparisons to other science fiction films. I think the nice thing about science-fiction is that as a genre you can kind of get away with building on what other science films in the past while it’s not really stealing; it is paying homage to other science-fiction films. I think the reason for that, especially for hard core science-fiction films, is that there is certain things that work, and it seems kind of crazy to create something that isn’t science that doesn’t make sense just to be original. There is this kind of building on the shoulders of giants thing that you do particularly in science-fiction, as long as you pay tribute to where credit is due and you do try to be original in the story itself which I think we did do. I am more then grateful and proud to be compared to great science fiction.
I think science fiction fans for sure will love the movie, but what do you think non-science fiction fans will think?
Duncan Jones: Well, I think you’re right that we got the sci-fi fans covered and I think we got the Sam Rockwell fans covered. If you’re not naturally in those camps, I think what makes Moon work and what other science fictions fans appreciated was that it is a human story about human beings, and it isn’t just about the special effects. It’s just about what it is to be a human being and the science-fiction setting is only really there because it gives you such a good contrast about the person and the environment they’re stuck in. I think it’s that contrast that allows you to see the characters so clearly. What I can tell you is this: popular mechanics loves this film and Vanity Fair loves this film. It’s very hard to get such a huge contrast like that (laughs). Gadget guys love it and woman of all types do, too. I think what works is that there is a real heart felt-ness about the film, because there is a lot of personal stuff and there is a lot of real true human emotions that went into the making of the film.
I loved the idea about meeting yourself and not getting along, that was great.
Duncan Jones: (laughs) Absolutely, that’s one of those things that comes from personal experience. I was a very angry and frustrated young guy in my teens and in my twenties. It took me a long time to work out what it is I wanted to do in my life and to kind of find myself to feel easy in my own skin. I was frustrated and I was angry. I didn’t know where I fitted in. That version of me is definitely in some ways Sam two (laughs). I kind of think aspects of Sam one are kind of a part of me now. I know what it is that I want, and I kind of know where I fit in. I think that conversation between the me now and the me informed Sam. Sam added so much more to it, but that was the start of it. He sort of had the genius about coming up what really made those two characters such different people and how to bring those two into conflict.
I have my own thoughts on the ending on what happens to Sam II, but I was wondering what do you like to think happens?
Duncan Jones: (laughs) Well, I’m going to tell you, but I’m not going to tell you now (laughs). The next film I’m doing is a science-fiction film, and Sam has agreed to do a little cameo. We’re basically going to have an epilogue which gives you a basic idea of what happened when Sam got back to earth.
To be honest, I don’t think anything about the movie shouts summer movie. It’s a slow-burn drama, and not a McG or Michael Bay movie. How do you think it’s going to standout?
Duncan Jones: (laughs) Well, I think that we come out in New York and LA first, so I think that by the time the film is open in most U.S. markets it will be about a month later, because every week adds more cities. If we get the timing right, hopefully, by mid-July people will be a bit jaded by some of the big blockbusters. I’m sure they’ll be good, but maybe they’ll be looking for something else and hopefully Moon will become one of their options.
I think word-of-mouth is really going to help the film.
Duncan Jones: Yeah, that’s what we need. You know me, I’m trying to sell my soul to get people to see this film (laughs). Anything I can do.
What Sci-Fi film are you looking forward to the most this summer?
Duncan Jones: Avatar!
That actually comes out in December.
Duncan Jones: Oh yeah. Well, I guess Star Trek.
Star Trek is a lot of fun, but it is no Moon or Mutant Chronicles.
Editors Note: Duncan suggested to watch Mutant Chronicles on twitter, which is a hilariously bad movie.
Duncan Jones: (laughs) I guess it’s not a summer movie, but I’m so looking forward to Avatar.
So many directors have gone crazy over footage they have seen.
Duncan Jones: I know, Ridley Scott saw some of it. He talked about it at the BFI thing, and he said that he was very impressed. He said it was enough of a reason for him to look at doing one of his future features in 3D.
Last question: when and where do you think you’ll be shooting Mute?
Duncan Jones: Berlin. I live in London right now, but once we get the green-light to do it then me and my heads of department will move to Berlin for about six to eight months. Then hopefully we start shooting by February or March of next year.
Moon opens in NY and LA June 12th, before continuing to other markets throughout the summer.