It has been two years since Derek Cianfrance emerged with his raw and intimate “Blue Valentine,” and coming into TIFF with his latest effort, the filmmaker presented a movie that was bigger in every way possible. Running well over two hours with cast including Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Ben Mendelsohn and more, “The Place Beyond the Pines” tells a tale that spans generations and makes great use of its New York State setting. To say that we loved it would be an understatement (read our review here), but it seems the director isn’t done with long form storytelling just yet.
We sat down with Cianfrance in Toronto to talk about ‘Pines’ (and we’ll have more from that discussion soon), but we couldn’t help but ask what was next. First announced almost two years ago, Cianfrance is tackling “Muscle,” an adaptation of Sam Fussell‘s memoir for HBO that he’s co-writing with the author, that tells the story of an Oxford graduate who moves to New York City, and in order to protect himself, spends four years fully consumed in the world of bodybuilding. And it’s a tale Cianfrance believes is perfectly suited to the space that television allows.
“It’s basically the urban retelling of the boy who got sand kicked in his face,” Cianfrance said about the broad scope of the story. He continues. “One of the bad things about being a filmmaker, about being me, is I can hardly read a book anymore because every time I read something I have a poaching mentality, like ‘Oh can this be a movie?’ You know so it almost hurts with music now too. Because I listen to a song and like, ‘Skip, it’s not a movie song,’ you know what I mean? You just can’t enjoy it. So, ‘Muscle’ is one of the few things I’ve ever read that when I read it I was like I have to make that into a movie. Because it deals with the themes that I’m [interested in]….male anxiety, it’s about this masculine identity and reinvention [and] transformation of character. I tried you know to make a movie out of it but then I soon realized that I could never make a film out of this because first off I would have to resort to special effects, there’s no way I could have a guy go from me to Arnold Schwarzenegger. To do that in nine weeks [on a movie shoot]. But if I could do that over the course of five years in a TV show it could be great.”
And clearly, Cianfrance is really enjoying the freedom that TV allows, as he’s not constrained by the running time of a standard feature film, allowing the story to breathe the way it should. “And also it’s really interesting working, as we’re writing the script television is so expansive in terms of writing,” he explained. “You know Sam’s book is not particularly long, it’s 250 pages, but that’s impossible to fit into a movie, it will never fit into 90 minutes. I think book adaptations, the best ones to me is like ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ Which is a short story, 21 pages, that expands so beautifully into a movie. You know movies are almost like short stories. But television you can make a novel and so that’s what we’re working on.”
“That’s what’s next. I’m very, very excited about doing that,” he added as our time with the filmmaker ran out. While fans will have to wait until 2013 for Focus Features to drop “The Place Beyond the Pines,” those who seek it out (and should) will understand why it’s so exciting that Cianfrance is taking his storytelling powers to cable. Of course, the project is still developing but we’re eager to see how Cianfrance will use the format to flex “Muscle.”