30ninjas.com have a new interview with Trespass director Joel Schumacher, as well as a few new photos from the set! Thanks to Marta for the heads-up on the forum!
• Trespass: On The Set – Misc./Unknown x3 more
Trespass Exclusive Photos and On Set Interview: Joel Schumacher Talks About the Universal Fear of Home Invasion, The Luck Virus of Success and Chasing Demi Moore
- From 30ninjas.com
After twelve straight hours of travel I arrived on the set of Trespass, in scenic Shreveport, Louisiana. As I was driving toward the swampy park that had all of the charm of the languid, rural south, an incomplete skeleton of a housing addition appeared in the distance. I made a pit stop at the “station”, on the outskirts of the property where the trailers were parked, and my contact revealed to me that the housing addition was the set of one of the climactic scenes of the film and that Joel Schumacher was in the process of filming Nicole Kidman and Nicholas Cage. Sweet! Fueled by a hunger wrought from the passion of the final scene of The Lost Boys, I rampaged the set to squeeze all of the information I could out of the director (i.e. I was carefully guided — so as not to ruin the filming of a pivotal scene — to a spot where I could patiently wait for Joel to have a break from filming).
Details surrounding his latest suspense thriller have been meager on account of the reveal-heavy nature of the plot, so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped right in!
Trespass and the Difference Between Big Budget and Small Budget
Max Tedaldi: I’ve heard the general themes and plot of Trespass, but it would be great to hear from the director what this movie is about. It seems like it’s been shrouded in mystery for a while now.
Joel Schumacher: I think [there is] a universal fear of home invasion. For the last 14 years, I’ve been doing a lot of public service campaigns, especially for MTV and I was doing one on bullying and sexting with 40 teenagers on set and they asked me what I was going off to shoot. When I said, “a home invasion story,” they all gasped! Everyone started talking, saying, “that’s what I’m afraid of most”. High school students said they always make sure their parents check that the doors are locked. The girls going to college are scared shitless to live in the dormitories. I think it’s the fear in the middle of the night that you’re going to wake up and there will be someone in your house. So in a simple sentence: It’s a home invasion movie.
Why these people are here in this house is another story. There are cross connections, there are secrets and lies in Nicole [Kidman] and Nic [Cage]‘s marriage, there are secrets and lies between Ben Mendelsohn and Cam Gigandet, who play brothers, and for the strange man that Dash Mihok plays, and for Ben Mendelsohn’s girlfriend, who’s a stripper, played by Jordana Spiro.
So there are many secrets and lies in that foursome, and then there are cross connections between them too. Even though there are guns and running and some action to it, it’s really about these seven people, in one house, in one night, pretty much in real time. It’s like Phonebooth in a house.
Max: In terms of the pacing, you’re discovering more about these characters as they learn about what is actually happening. Almost the same as 8mm, which you also did with Nic.
Joel: Yeah, that’s about an ordinary man, who becomes someone he never thought he would be.
Max: Does Nic’s character do something similar in this film when he’s pressed into an extreme situation?
Joel: Yes, but the difference in 8MM is that the sins were so heinous, it led him to beating James Gandolfini to death with a gun, and then breaking into Chris Bower’s house. He would not normally do this, he’s just trying to defend his family and outsmart them. In this movie, by the time it ends, everyone becomes someone they never thought they would be. No one knows who they will be when their life is on the line. Very simply, [Cam Gigandet and Ben Mendelsohn] have a plan to be in and out of this house [belonging to Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage] in 15 minutes. It should have gone that way. These are people [Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage's charcters] that can be threatened with guns and home invasion, they’re terrorized by it but there are many things Nic can’t say, so it involves stalling them. This is the fabric of the movie. People do change. Nicole becomes a ferocious mother bear. Everybody is called upon to do what they never thought they’d have to do.
Max: So the movie happens in real time?
Max: You just came from doing Twelve in New York, correct?
Joel: It was 23 days with 6 scenes a day, many times with actors who had never been in front of a camera. So every scene in Twelve took an hour. We would rehearse, light, shoot it, and then move on. I wouldn’t recommend it. It was like guerrilla filmmaking. In Tigerland we had 40 days. We shot that without hair, makeup or stunt people. It’s like a documentary all happening in front of you. All the lighting outside is real lighting and all the lighting inside is fluorescent. And that took 40 days! There were a lot of big fight sequences. But we had to shoot Twelve in 23 days and we did it!
It’s coming out on Fox Home Video, which is really great because the people that bought [the film] at Sundance had no money to open the movie. We had no TV commercials, we had no ads, and we knew we wouldn’t get critics because it’s exactly the kind of movie I’ve made in the past: “Beautiful young people acting badly.” We did get a great review from Roger Ebert. He said that I dare to make movies about people you didn’t like. Those are stories too!
Max: This shoot has been two months in a much more controlled environment. You guys built an entire house in a convention center. That seems much more controlled than working in New York. What was that switch like?
Joel: We built a two-story set, so it’s very controlled. It’s like being in a studio. A studio movie, you can get all the toys in the world, but with something like Phonebooth, you don’t get any toys. We made Phonebooth in twelve days. We got lucky. When you have success, you get lucky. We all see wonderful movies every year that none of your friends see and you can’t get them to see them either. Other times we see commercial successes that we don’t like as much.
We’re all dealing, like Doug [Liman], with mass media. Especially today, everyone has a voice. Everyone has a legitimate voice for hate now. There’s so much hate on the Internet, in the media, in politics, etc. I’m afraid that there are going to be people in this young generation that are going to be afraid to put their asses on the line and take a risk for their dreams. You’re growing up in a world where if you dare to stick out you’ll pay. You have to be able to ignore it. It used to be that you just ignored the critics, both good and bad. But now, you have to ignore every single thing that’s written because there are journalists that will bring up the nastiest things because that’s the “tough question”.
I tell film school students that you have to be willing to have your job review on national television. It could be the weather girl who says, “I saw that movie last night, I didn’t like it!” That’s a review! But you don’t know who it is, you don’t know who’s saying it.
Max: Anonymity breeds the worst in us.
Joel: But if you pay to see mass media, then I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. You paid your money.
Breeding Creativity With No Names
Max: You’ve run the gamut between big budget and small budget. What’s your ideal situation in terms of breeding creativity.
Joel: This is the strange thing when you have a career. When you do your first TV movie, you don’t know whether there will be another one. After tonight, I don’t know if there will be another one. We’re freelance people. What happened was, Incredible Shrinking Woman was successful, and then D.C. Cab cost 3 million dollars and was a hit, and then I wrote St. Elmo’s Fire and did Lost Boys on the heels of it. Because they became important in the pop culture zeitgeist, everybody thinks that they were all designed to be hits, like I had some master plan. The truth is that we were making it all up. All the kids in St. Elmo’s Fire were unknown. In Lost Boys the only person that was known was Corey Feldman because he had been in Goonies. People didn’t know who Kiefer was. All of the Lost Boys were unknown. I did have a plan for the studio though, which was that if you were cheap enough, stayed on schedule, and gave them good dailies, they would leave you alone.
Max: How did that work out?
Joel: I was able to make the movie I wanted to make. Mark Canton [executive vice president at Warner Bros.], would come up to Santa Cruz where we were shooting, or on the sound stage at Warner Brothers, and say “everyone is very worried, is this a comedy or a horror movie?” and I said, “yes.” Then he would come back and say, “That answer isn’t working, Joel. They think the two genres won’t work together at all.” I told him, “Tell them to pray.” Then we had a research screening, and 750 people showed up. It was like a rock concert. No one really knew about it but there was something that got them to come. When we premiered Phonebooth at the Austin Film Festival, there were mobs of people to see it.
Max: Like there was some sort of urgency behind it?
Joel: It’s like a virus, you either catch it or you don’t. I think I’ve caught it enough that the law of averages applies. People think St. Elmo’s Fire and Lost Boys were designed to be these humongous hits, but we just got lucky. A lot of things journalists forget is that I started off very small, making small movies with unknown people. It’s where I belonged . . . lucky to have the job. Flatliners was very inexpensive. Julia [Roberts] started working on Flatliners in the rehearsal phase the day after she finished shooting Pretty Woman.
Max: That’s right, Pretty Woman hadn’t come out yet. She had done Mystic Pizza before then.
Joel: She got paid very little on Pretty Woman because it was a big break for her. All her agent was asking for [on Flatliners] was another hundred thousand. I think I had to offer her part of my salary. They [producers] didn’t realize her value and by the end of Flatliners, they were willing to give her millions! She was great. She deserved it. She had become the biggest female movie star in the world at that time. She won the Golden Globe for Steel Magnolias, and then did Pretty Woman. The rest is history.
I didn’t get a big budget until Batman Forever. I had some luck pushing unknowns in movies because I’ve made money for people with unknowns.
Max: It seems like many of the unknowns, who you’ve cast through a twist of fate, have then become stars of their own, like Julia Roberts, or Colin Farrell. Can you claim any responsibility?
Joel: I did nothing but give them parts that they were the best person for. I’ve often said that if Julia Roberts walked into your house when she was 20, or Colin Farrell at 24, and you didn’t hire them, you shouldn’t have a job making movies. There’s a moment when someone walks into a room and there’s no one like them. I remember Nicole Kidman, right after Dead Calm came to the United States, and her manager brought her to my house — I’d seen her in Dead Calm, which she was fantastic in — and when she walked in I knew she was one of the ten most beautiful women I’d see in a lifetime, and also that she was unlike anyone else in the movie business at that time. I was going to give her Julia Roberts part, but she then went on to do Days of Thunder. The rest is history.
It was Gary Marshall who made Julia a huge superstar. He probably fought for her to play the part in Pretty Woman. Imagine that movie without Julia Roberts. It’s impossible. It’s like Casablanca without Ingrid Bergman. If you don’t fall in love with her then you don’t give a shit.
John Hughes made all the wholesome 80s movies, and I made St. Elmo’s Fire, Lost Boys and Flatliners. When The Lost Boys billboard when up on Sunset Blvd. John and I were at Spago, which used to be under that huge billboard. We were sitting there and he said, “why can’t I make movies like that, Joel?” I said, “Why can’t I make Pretty in Pink? You had a different high school experience than I did.” In John’s movies, the main character is always an outsider that doesn’t fit in, going through teenager insecurities, that’s the charm of those stories.
Max: Was your high school experience risque and dangerous then?
Joel: My life has been risque and dangerous from a very early age. My father died when I was four, and my mother was working 6 days a week. She died at an early age as well. I had a bike when I was 7 so that I could cross the 59th street bridge in Manhattan. I started drinking at 9, smoking at 10, and I was sexually active at 11. There was no parental supervision. It’s not like it was an affluent neighborhood, it was a really industrial area in Queens where you could ride your bike over the bridge and get into trouble.
Max: So there’s obviously a big difference in the movies that you an John Hughes make, but what about the characters? Was there ever any overlap?
Joel: Back in the 80s we had offices across from each other so we shared a hall. Demi [Moore] was in to see him about another movie. She got tired for waiting for John and I happened to walk out of office and see her running down the hallway. I had my assistant run after her and find out who she was. My assistant came back and said, “Her name is Demi Moore and she was on General Hospital.” So I called her agent and she came in and did a reading. There was no one like Demi Moore at that age in the world. In the movie she gets to be sexy, seductive, hilariously funny and dramatic. She becomes a coke head and she tries to kill herself by freezing to death by opening the windows in her apartment. She had to go through thirty-five different things in the movie. At that age? Pretty fucking amazing, right? There was no one like her. Everyone wanted to play that role including Ally Sheedy and Mare Winningham.
Max: Did you lay down the hammer and say, “this is Demi’s part”?
Joel: They came in way before Demi. I told them, “I love you, but I think you should be this part, and not that part.”
Directing a Cult Classic, Being on the Cusp of a Phenomenon, and Sergio
Max: Directing one of the big, cult vampire films of the 80s…
Joel: Which we never knew. Which we made up on the spot mostly.
Max: But now looking at vampire movies, they are the hit films of the late 2000s.
Joel: Twilight, you mean? Twilight is a phenomenon. Lost Boys was not a phenomenon.
Max: But you were at the cusp of that teen phenomenon!
Joel: Well, we didn’t know. The reason I wasn’t going to do it at first was that it was Goonies with vampires. It was very G-rated. I needed the job, but I couldn’t come to terms with the movie. I was out running one day and I thought, “there’s a fucking cave in the movie . . . it’s going to be one of those plastic caves that Warner Bros. has”. But if it was in Santa Cruz, why couldn’t there have been this Death in Venice hotel which fell through the cracks. So the cave could have these pieces of architecture and be really interesting. So, when I saw the cave I started seeing another movie within that movie. But they were all kids and it was very G-rated, so I went into Mark Canton’s office and asked if they could be teenagers. “Why can’t Star be a sexy girl? Why can’t they be on stripped down motorcycles?”
A week before, this was when MTV was at its peak mind you, Duran Duran did a video for “Election Day” using the set from Ridley Scott’s Legend. It was all smoked up with huge pillars, and they were walking through it with long coats. So I got the tape of the video and brought it to Mark and said, “Why can’t they look like this?” Mark said, “just do it.” So that’s how Lost Boys became Lost Boys.
Max: So I’m going to test you on your pop culture right now. Have you seen the SNL Digital Short “Sergio”? It was on last season with John Hamm.
Joel: I don’t know.
Max: I think you’d get a kick out of it. It’s a parody of the saxophone player in Lost Boys.
Joel: Oh great! Does John Hamm do it?
Max: Yeah and he’s got the mullet too.
Joel: That guy was Tim Capello, he was Tina Turner’s sax player, and the song was [I Still Believe]. What people forget about Lost Boys is how theatrical and funny it is. People remember how sexy it is, but not how funny it is. There’s a lot of funny shit in Lost Boys. That movie came out in 1987 and the fact that it can be parodied in 2009 . . . and people still get it? That’s totally amazing. We didn’t think anyone would go see the movie.
Max: A phenomenon like Twilight is wholesome and seeped in religion. I think it’s kind of creepy to see a genre you love get dragged through a Mormon ideology . . .
Joel: You know when you write a phenomenon, you can put whatever you want in it. When Mel Gibson did Passion of the Christ people were dissing him left and right. They said, “how could he have people speaking ancient Hebrew and Greek, and have no subtitles in it?” I would always say, “well we know the story don’t we?” So when I saw it, I called him up and said, “It’s so beautifully made, but get ready for people to take off on it.” So he said, “Joel, they’re killing me.” I said, “you made this message with your own money. I get to put my own messages in films and so does every other director. We don’t have to pay for them. We get free speech. You paid 40 million dollars to edit whatever the fuck you want and if people don’t know the story by now . . .” It was shocking! His name was Jesus, he got arrested and he was crucified. There were so many Bible movies when I was growing up.
Max: Religion in film is taboo now I guess.
Joel: Tough titty. There was a huge audience for that taboo subject.
Max: That might have been the reason they were there.
Joel: I remember seeing it the first night show. People were sobbing. That’s a moving film. You want people to scream when you’re scaring them, and you want people to feel moved when you’re moving them. These people believe in Jesus and that’s why they’re crying.
Max: What other films have touched you recently?
Joel: Restrepo. It’s a war documentary. They’re in this little trench in the middle of Afghanistan, and they’re surrounded by the enemy. The camera is right there with them. It will make you angry about war if you aren’t angry enough already. It’s so real. The Sgt. has these meetings with the elders every week in the village, and at this one meeting this guys is screaming because they killed his cow incidentally in the village, and he wants them to pay. They just want money, they don’t want to discuss anything.