On The Business
I love the way the advertising world is changing. You get to do things like BMW Films. They're little movies, but they're advertising. That was a big influence in terms of what I did with my next movie after that, Man on Fire. I knew Man on Fire was in the offing, so I used BMW to try and test things--not just visual ideas and camera ideas but in terms of sense of humor and strange, dark characters. Stylistically it was a big influence in terms of what I did with the film.
On What RSA Has Meant
It's been my home, my anchor, my beginnings. I think coming out of advertising is such a big factor in terms of how my movies look and feel today. I loved advertising, I loved telling a story in a 30-second theater, I love compression in terms of story and style. British directors of my age, 63--Ridley, Alan Parker, Hugh Hudson, Adrian Lyne and me, who came out of that era and who would go into movies--advertising had a huge influence on the look [of our films], the way the content was handled. Maybe not Alan, but we were always criticized for coming out of commercial style--style over content. Fuck them.
On Success In Films
There are two rewards. One is, I feel when I finish a movie it's like finishing a painting. I sit back, I feel good about myself, feel good about what I've done. The second one is how much will the painting sell for? It's two different peaks you look at--the business success, the box office success of the movie and then the creative success. But most of all, when I'm self-satisfied and get it right, other people love what I do.
On Staying Motivated In The Face Of Less Than Stellar Reviews
It knocks me down. It's terrible. It's like having your first born and people think it's ugly. I never look at the critics. Ever since The Hunger, my first movie that I got slaughtered on, I never look at the reviews, except for once on Man on Fire. I was sitting through a series of interviews in a hotel. Someone told me, Don't look at The New York Times, and there it was sitting in the middle of the coffee table. It sat there for a whole morning, and then I couldn't help myself. I opened it up and it was the most devastating review. Now I never read my press.
On The Key To Great Storytelling
It's communication. I know it sounds like a simplification. It's dynamics. I remember one of the best bits of television I've ever seen: I was at the BBC and I watched a program one night featuring Orson Welles sitting and talking all night with Peter O'Toole. What was an hour's program turned into a two-hour program. You get two consummate creative forces, then you sit there absolutely enthralled listening to two men who really know their craft and art. That's where I learned that actually you don't have to have running, jumping, standing, exploding cars and action. It's all about information. Truly great writing is about the dynamics of new information, I think. Sometimes it may involve action, sometimes it may involve a sword fight or a car crash, but for the most part, not necessarily so.
The first priority for any great movie is to have it on paper. If you've got it on paper, then the making of the movie, to a large extent, is quite easy if you're as practiced as I am. That means I'm not just practiced and half asleep in the chair, but actually I'm so practiced that I'm in competition with myself. I'm thinking, How can I do it so I haven't done this before? So you move beyond the idea that's saying, Well you've done it so much, do you ever get weary? The answer is never. In fact, what you're always doing is struggling to make it different because you've been there before.
On The Relationship Between Painting And Directing
I've started painting again, quite seriously. It's not Sunday painting; I did seven years as an art student. Painting is like an abstract experience for oneself, and right there in that room where you're painting is that whole universe of internal struggle--to get something down right, without really knowing what the target is, until it's done. It's completely organic, with no end, until something tells you it's done. And then you step back and go, It's done, isn't it? It's funny; it's like the process of doing my job. Every job is quite specific, and the target is quite specific, whether it's a commercial or a film, and there's very much a target in mind.
Still, my best work is done when I'm quietly sitting down myself. Usually, it's always fairly late where there are absolutely no distractions and I'm thinking, What the hell am I going to do for Chanel or this or that, and then something would occur. What I have learned is to trust my intuition. In the creative process, the intuition becomes everything--for me, certainly, learning to recognize it, and then pursue it. [It helps] the more experience you get listening to yourself, and listening to your body, which people don't do. They frequently externalize, they don't internalize. I think there's a lot to be learned from internalization. Is that Buddhism?
On Dealing With Outside Voices And Opinions
I'm polite. I'm already halfway down the road, usually miles ahead when these voices are being expressed. What I'm smart enough to do is when something really good comes up that really makes sense, my intuition clicks and I go, Hmm, that's a good idea. I'll actually say so and I'll key into that and examine it. It's also learning to listen, but at the end of the day you're learning to be decisive.