Interview: James Gray Discusses Harvey Weinstein, Cinematic Influences, His Career, ‘Die Hard’ & More

Interview: James Gray Discusses Harvey Weinstein, Cinematic Influences, His Career, 'Die Hard' & More

The Immigrant” stars the terrific cast of Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner, and the 1920s-set period piece is superficially something very different for filmmaker James Gray. Gone are the genre trappings, macho-male leads with guns, stories deeply connected to the pain and sadness of family, and the shrouded Gordon Willis-like photography the filmmaker evinced on films like "The Yards," "We Own The Night" and "Little Odessa." However, “The Immigrant,” with its themes of the fallacy of the American Dream, the desire to fit in and idea that no one is beyond redemption is very much a James Gray film. It’s a further continuation of a singular pursuit told slightly differently, retaining Gray’s signature sense of emotional intelligence, intimacy and graceful restraint. 

In 2013, “The Immigrant” was set to be a TWC-Radius/VOD release. Gray didn’t explain what happened exactly or why the film moved over to a proper The Weinstein Company theatrical release, but that’s where our second, more recent conversation began (you can read part one here; editor’s note — parts of this conversation are also taken from a chat with Gray during a Q&A hosted by The Playlist at Brooklyn Academy of Music). Warning, mild spoilers below.

I should say congratulations because you must have naked pictures of Harvey Weinstein or something because now we’ve got a regular release.
I don’t have naked pictures of Harvey. That’s what I’ll say. I will tell you that I am eternally grateful to the people who have seen the film and responded to it. They’ve made their affection for the movie known and that has helped the cause tremendously. There was some kind of prevailing narrative about the film getting mixed response in Cannes; divisive, which is really bullshit. It comes essentially entirely from the U.K. Because they all hated the movie. The rest of the world, very positive. So as a consequence of this prevailing narrative, that’s very unhelpful when you’re trying to get your film released, particularly when it relies on critical approbation.

The irony is you’re known as a Cannes guy, but your films get routinely roasted there. But “The Immigrant” seems to actually have garnered the best response of all your films at the festival.
By far. And for reasons that I have no idea, it was not publicized. It was maybe a better story to write about how it was divisive. But I’m telling you, every film I’ve ever made has been hated by the U.K. critics. And they hated it. That’s where that kind of narrative has come into play. But you’re right, this one was very well received. I’m grateful because the movie is coming out.

You’ve got three terrific leads in this movie, Marion, Joaquin, Jeremy Renner; how did they mesh together? How are their acting styles different?
Good question. All actors have different styles, really. It’s not unique to this movie. William Atherton has a very different acting style to Bonnie Bedelia, she has a very different style then Bruce Willis. But the movie is “Die Hard” and the buildings are blowing up and you don’t even really register Alan Rickman in it, too. In other words: it doesn’t really matter if they have different acting styles, because they’re all playing a sort of bubblegum kind of thing. By the way, I’m not badmouthing “Die Hard.” I love that movie and I think it’s excellent. It holds up, it’s an exciting movie and it’s about as well-done as those movies come.

So this movie…
When the movie is focused on performance you start to realize these are issues. So Marion Cotillard is doing her best [Renée Jeanne] Falconetti impression, with her big eyes tearing up like a silent movie character. You’ve got Joaquin Phoenix, method boy, and then you’ve got Jeremy Renner, the craftsman. Renner shows up, knows every line, does them exactly the way you want, goes, “let’s play,” does 42 different versions that you love, all of them, and you go, “Jeremy, you’re good.” And he goes, “Thanks, man!” walks off and is the coolest guy in the room. Joaquin inevitably turns to me and goes [adopts anguished, nasally, mumbly Joaquin Phoenix voice], “C’mon, how does this guy do it? He’s so good. He just shows up and does it. That guy is so fucking cool.” But you cast according to type. That’s the way to do it, I think it, play to what the actor does. By the way, Marion is just an incredible actress, I’m not trying to be glib. The way you deal with it is to be very specific with each actor and to try and give specific and personal direction attuned to each person. I’ll whisper something to each of them individually.

How about Joaquin, specifically?
In Joaquin Phoenix’s case, he’s so inventive and all over the place in the best way. And on this movie, he was really wonderful to deal with because I had written the part as a brute. And he said, “I don’t wanna do that, why do you let me do what I wanna do?” And then he tells me during rehearsal, “I don’t think we’re making the same movie.” And Marion is sitting there going [adopts her French accent], “You guys are like an old married couple.” So I’m like, “What movie do you think we’re making?" And Joaquin explains that the character is a manipulator from the very beginning of the movie and everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie. He says, “I think, sometimes he’s very nice to her and sometimes he’s very terrible and everything is a manipulation.” And I was like, "Wow," and that was a much more complex and interesting take on the character that we used.

So for direction you don’t do the “Good, but not interesting” thing anymore? [laughs] (Context: On the DVD extras for “The YardsCharlize Theron has this hilarious anecdote about Gray’s direction back then which was, [she adopts his nasally voice], “Good, but not interesting.” Gray is appalled at himself in retrospect and Theron says that while harsh, in the end she appreciated his no bullshit feedback.)
I didn’t remember saying that, but it’s awful. Apparently I said on the set of my first and second movie, “That’s good, but not interesting. Do it again.” I’m not even sure what that means anymore. But I thought I was the greatest on the first movie. While I was shooting it I thought I had arrived. The first movie, I was 23, I thought I knew everything, but my ego soon took an irrevocable blow.

I was listening to the commentary on a few of your films recently…
You mean the DVD commentary? I can’t stand doing them. To me it’s like, "Let me explain to you what the movie means" and to me that’s death. If I have to do that then I’ll do it. But they’re important to the people that make the DVDs. They’re always like, “You have to do it!” Does Paul Thomas Anderson do them?

He stopped a long time ago. After “Boogie Nights” I think.
He stopped, right? Because Paul would be like, “I don’t want to explain the movie and then …”

Steven Soderbergh stopped doing them too, and you guys did “The Yards” together which is terrific.
He stopped doing them?

Yeah, and his were great. Yours, Soderbergh and Fincher’s were great, too.
Fincher’s were good? I didn’t know that Steven stopped doing them, but I’m thrilled to hear that Paul has stopped. I never even discussed commentaries with him, but knowing him I would guarantee to know that he’d think the same thing I do.

Speaking of Paul Thomas Anderson, he was one that suggested using Mark Wahlberg for “The Yards,” right?
Well, we’ve been close. I’ve known Paul for years and when did I meet him, 1992? Now you’re making me wonder, when did I meet him? In fact I saw “Pulp Fiction” with Paul. That was in 1994. I went to the movies with him then so I obviously knew him by then. Anyway, why are we talking about this?

Paul recommended …
Oh yes, what happened because I said I’m looking for an actor who’s the salt of the earth, working class—like I need John Garfield or one of those guys. And he said, “Oh, I’ve just started working with Mark Wahlberg [for ‘Boogie Nights‘], I think you’re going to think he’s great.” I was like, “Marky Mark???” He said, “No, the guy’s great,” and I met with Mark and I thought he was fantastic. I love Mark Wahlberg, I have nothing but great things to say about him.

He’s definitely underrated.
You know why? Because it’s very hard for Mark to find movies that are good for him because they don’t make them. They don’t really make movies that call for [Marlon Brando’s character in “On The Waterfront”] in Hoboken. They call for him as an astronaut. And so Mark finds comedies now to do. If you saw “The Fighter” I thought his work in that was so underrated because it’s not showy, which is not to denigrate Christian Bale, who was terrific, but it’s a very earthy performance and it’s not showy.

He does that especially in “We Own The Night.” Very restrained.
Yeah. I love what he does in the film because to me he removes the ego, the tough guy thing, and that’s a courageous thing to do in a way.

Do you have a favorite, or least favorite of your films?
It’s a little difficult, it’s like saying you have a favorite child in a way, but there are films that I’ve made that are closer to what it is I had in mind than others. I think there are sequences in some of the films that I appreciate that I think I pulled off, but there are of course, unfortunately, many other stretches where I realized that I failed. That’s an interesting question. I’m not just saying this because we’re here to talk about this movie, but this film and “Two Lovers” I think are my best films. There are other people to this day who say, “Little Odessa” is my best. I think that’s nuts. To me, it’s about how close it is to what it is I had originally tried to convey in the first place. So I think the last two films are closest to who I am for good or for ill. That is what I’m trying to convey anyway.

That’s interesting because what separates “Two Lovers” and “The Immigrant” have gotten rid of their genre trappings.
You’re right. That’s not so much a product of artistic growth, but a product of being able to earn the place to do that. I never have decided to make only genre films starting out, but you can’t start out making “Two Lovers.” If you did, nobody would make that film.

It was kind of your way in.
What happened was, the Russian gangster aspect of “Two Lovers” is what got it made initially. So “Two Lovers” was out, the Russian gangsters became a domestic drama, which is not interesting to anyone. So, “Two Lovers” was the reward I got for making “We Own the Night,” which did very well for the company which was called 2929; they were incredible to me. They said, "Here’s 10 million dollars do what you want." Then that became “Two Lovers” which also afforded me the ability to make this film because “Two Lovers” wasn’t a big money maker here in the U.S. but it did pretty well internationally, they all made their money back decently and especially in France and so the money came for this from France. So that has enabled me to do that.

Point of view is so crucial to you as a filmmaker and “The Immigrant” has a bold POV shift baton pass.
Oh, at the end? That was always the design for the film, because the idea was you were supposed to watch this film and think it was all about her and then at the end you realized that in a way [Joaquin’s character is] the one being redeemed.

It’s an interesting narrative idea. Pretty risky.
A great man, Mr. Francis Ford Coppola once said, “There’s no art without risk.” But that’s what you’re talking about, that’s a subversive thing that is not really—people don’t really think about those things when they watch movies. So it’s really a subversive or risky thing for me.

But don’t they notice it at least subconsciously? They might understand that this is …
They probably realize it unconsciously, that’s true. But it very rarely becomes part of the discourse unless it’s somebody who’s crazy enough to sit there and study the movie and watch it four or five times. Which that doesn’t really happen usually. Most people don’t watch a movie four or five times, they watch it once. So if you watch it once it’s not going to be abundantly clear. You know the point of view thing starts to shift when he follows her to the church and listens in on her confession because then what happens is you begin to realize that something is playing with him, that she’s burrowed her way into his brain.

The original title of the film is sort of based on his POV.
That’s right. The original title of the film, “Lowlife,” was supposed to be a more general expression about these—you know like, “Who is the low life? Is it her? Is it him?” In the way it applies to the new title as well because they both talked about how they first came on a boat and they were very young, it’s about everybody.

It brings things back to the idea that it could be a kind of “Little Odessa” prequel, though I imagine you’re a little tired of that idea.
But you know, I’m telling you a lot of it is unconscious I don’t sit in the room and say I’m going to do this because it fulfills this part of the filmography. It so does not happen like that I can’t tell you. What you do is you say, okay, what personal aspect can I reveal? And that’s what winds up on the screen, hopefully, if you’re lucky.

You certainly weren’t thinking that way back then.
“Little Odessa” is a little bit of a blur now. A lot of what the movie represents to me is my ignorance and my incompetence. I struggle now making, this is my fifth movie, and I struggle realizing how little I know about the process. So you can imagine what it was like when I was 23. But actually, I thought I was incredible.

Wes Anderson said that too. He said he had all the confidence in the world during the making of “Bottle Rocket” and then he saw the first edit and his ego deflated.
That’s funny because I’m going to see him soon and I’m going to talk to him about that. But that’s exactly it. On “Little Odessa” I remember thinking, as I was shooting, “I’m incredible. I’m one of the great artists working today!” I’d go into dailies thinking, “It’s masterful, it’s incredible.” March 6, 1994, it was the end. I remember walking to the edit room thinking I’m going to watch the assembly and it’s going to be one of the great films. It was so worthless; to this day my ego has not recovered.

The hard thing is to craft the story with elegance and emotion and honesty. Like if I look at the degree of difficulty, like an Olympic dive or something, what John Ford was doing or William Wyler it’s so much harder than like what [Jean-Luc] Godard has done, which is not to say that Godard stinks at something, Godard has made incredible movies. But even he, I bet you, if you got him in a room would tell you that the storytelling skills of those 1940s guys is beyond what he could do and what we can do.

Now they had huge advantage in one respect. They had all of the actors under contract, so they could screen a film, realize the problems and then go, “We’ll steal Cary Grant off this movie and shoot this thing and then he can go back in the afternoon." It was all the studio system. So they routinely reshot a lot, which is something you never get to do now. So you have to work with the footage you’ve got, that makes story telling a little bit more difficult.

5 Key Cinematic Influences On “The Immigrant”

James Gray has a great wealth of knowledge about cinema and always converses about it with great passionately. Thus, I attempted to get him to talk about five key cinematic influences on “The Immigrant.” And in a candid Gray-like way, I think I failed to achieve the insight I was after, but here’s this part of the conversation nonetheless. But they could be summed up as Fellini’s “La Strada,” Robert Bresson’s “The Diary Of A Country Priest,” Robert Altman’s “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” Lina Wertmüller’s “Seven Beauties” and Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s "The Passion of Joan of Arc" though a few other films are mentioned briefly too.

Movies that have superficial similarities, at least photographically might be Coppola’s “The Godfather Part II” and Eli Kazan’s “America, America,” but I suspect you looked elsewhere.
Well, to be honest with you neither of those films really figured into … I mean they figured into the movie only in so far as there’s Ellis Island in them.

James Gray On The Influence Of Fellini and “La Strada”
Yeah, I didn’t really think about those movies at all. If you really want to know the movie that I steal from completely it’s [Fellini’s] “La Strada.” I mean the movie’s a complete rip off of “La Strada” except for the last third. But if you think about the plot of “La Strada” which of course Giulietta Masina is the essentially the indentured slave of Anthony Quinn and she meets the holy fool which is Richard Basshart—it’s a very similar kind of dynamic.

The last third of [“The Immigrant”] becomes a little different but that was really the thing I stole from. It’s a hybrid of neo-realism and this poetic realism that Fellini was beginning to experiment with and that film gives us the most beautiful thing I think: which is the idea that all human beings are worthy of our compassion and examination. Which is the most beautiful thing if you can achieve it that any movie can give I think. It’s very democratic, it’s ethical, it’s beautiful and so that was one move that was a Fellini film.

Robert Bresson’s “Diary Of A Country Priest”
I wanted to do something that had a little bit a kind of austerity to it—that was from “Diary of a Country Priest” which was a Robert Bresson film. Because there’s so much religion to this story. One of the things I discovered doing the research was how important religion was to so many of these people coming through Elis Island and particularly Polish Catholics and the Catholic religion has almost institutionalized this whore idea in its morality. And I was trying to address that very directly and also introduce a fairly new psychological idea which is the idea of exploring the idea of codependency, a relationship between a man and a woman which is totally destructive and the man and the woman both need each other and yet the fact that they need each other is the worst thing that could have happened to both of them.

This is a kind of post-war Alcoholics Anonymous idea of codependency but to apply it to a period film I found interesting. So you know there’s so many things that go into making a film. So many different influences and in a way you just hope it winds up consistent.

Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties
There was a Lina Wertmüller movie called the “Seven Beauties” which for some reason I remember being influenced by although I don’t see much of it now but Giancarlo Giannini’s character which vaguely influenced Joaquin’s character had a certain forced formality to it which is all an act. I mean the fact that he’s in truth, completely self hating.

The movie is engineered for the ending. The idea is you’re supposed really only gather the whole film from the end because I always found those to be extremely satisfying movie going experiences. You know where you’re kind of watching it unsure will this all come together? Then when the ending comes it sort of hits you in a certain way and I always felt with Joaquin’s character that you never could get a handle on him until the end when he in a sense confesses to. She sort of in a way baptizes him. Because she essentially says you’re not a nobody and he’s able to finally bare his soul.

So in that sense you know the real influence of the movie, there are a couple films that we looked at. I also looked at “Nights of Cabiria,” the other Fellini film in the same time period which is 1957. You know, Kazan’s “America America” ends with that scene in Ellis Island but other than that there really isn’t much similar about it. That’s about you know a guy coming to the United States it’s sort of a prequel to this movie you know the voyage. “Godfather II” you know it has that opening at Ellis Island but in story terms it’s really you know obviously nothing alike.

The sepia look
Well, no. In look I stole from Vilmos Zsigmond, I thought a lot about “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and also stole from the opening of “Heavens Gate” and there was a bit of Gordon Willis but I guess less so than you might think. It’s hard to avoid seeming like you’re stealing from [“Godfather” DP] Gordon Willis if you’re doing that time period.

The influence of cinematographer Gordon Willis
It’s hard to avoid it because he and Francis Coppola did that so perfectly but what you find is that a lot of their choices were kind of based on a history. For example the amount of particulate in the air in 1921—you know, burning coal and pollution was extremely heavy and under those circumstances—the sky would take on an orange or yellow hue and lighting was of course mostly from gas lamps. I mean there was electricity in a lot of places but a lot of it was gas lamps which of course burn a little bit more gold so than all of a sudden you find yourself doing this color palette and everyone says Gordon Willis; well it’s there for a reason—they didn’t have fluorescent lights in 1921.

Autochrome photography
Another influence we looked at were old photographs, which are these sort of fake color photographs—they’re called autochromes—from the early part of the last century and they’re when dyes are applied to glass and it makes the photograph look like it’s color but it’s not really a photochemical color, it’s sort of a manually applied thing on glass and they’re quite extraordinary. Darius Khondji and I looked at a bunch of those and we sort of tried to copy the looks of those quite a bit and somehow it winds up being "Godfather II." So I guess I guess the influence and reach of that movie is so big with me.

Dreyer‘s "The Passion of Joan of Arc"
I can’t believe I forgot to even mention it because we based the movie around her. I wrote the movie for [Marion Cotillard] and she has one of those faces that’s like [Dreyer’s star Renée Jeanne] Falconetti. It’s like a silent movie actress—she doesn’t have to say anything. There’s so much compassion for her just by the way that she is, her soul. She radiates intelligence as well as physical beauty and god, that’s the rarest quality and absolutely particular in the confession scene and stuff. The pained, anguish filled close-up.

It’s very hard when you talk about Dryer and Bresson, it’s like if you say that you’re copying from them it sounds so pretentious. It sounds like you think you’re as good as they are or whatever but that’s not my attitude. My attitude is always steal from the best you know? And if you reinterpret it on your own it becomes something else, but it certainly was a huge influence because the power of those close-ups are just unmistakable. And there’s so much emotion without any dialogue, it’s amazing.

On the next and final page, if you’re still here, Gray talks about all his upcoming films and movie projects in development.

James Gray On "The Lost City Of Z" And Many Future Projects

In this section of our interviews, I essentially collated all the parts where Gray and I spoke about projects that have yet to be made like “The Lost City of Z,” his sci-fi project and more.

I’m curious because we haven’t really seen it before: what would a James Gray movie look like when it’s not set in New York?

Well, “The Immigrant” is set in New York but it’s really not. Because New York doesn’t look like that anymore, it’s all its own creation. So if you wonder what a film of mine would look like not in New York, I think I’ve already done it. We’ll see what comes next. I’m presently working on a science fiction project and I have huge hopes for that. And I’m beginning to work on “White Devil” for Warner Brothers [and] developing “The Lost City of Z” — [it’s] a hard one to get made. It needs a star and Benedict Cumberbatch will be great [Robert Pattinson is also in the cast].

You’ve been making small inroads into television.
I just directed a pilot for Sundance Channel [The Red Road] and I had a good time doing it, but I’m not a creator on the show so it’s a little bit weird to me. I wanted to get back to work. I didn’t want to dwell on the release of “The Immigrant.” I’m thrilled with the fact that I can’t edit the show myself, score it myself, all those key decisions are out of my hands. I’m there simply to work with the actors and interpret material. I don’t even know what that show looks like. I think it’ll be pretty good.

I guess that would be the problem with you in television, it’s a writer/producer medium.
Right, but if you’re writing and producing it’s a great medium. David Fincher told me I should go do TV cause he had such a good experience on “House of Cards.” But I think he did it under different circumstances than I did, he had a lot of control. That’s not to say I regretted doing it.

Brad Pitt is circling two of your project isn’t he?
Like 700 of them. Or at least he was at one point. He’s been a big fan of mine but it’s never worked out with him. He has a complicated life and there’s a lot of moving parts to Brad’s schedule. He’s been very helpful to me.

Pitt was once attached to “The Lost City of Z.” Is there a flavor you’re going for?
Hopefully when we go into the jungle to film the movie will find its own language. It’s an epic movie and it’s very much in the 60mm epic style. That’s what the starting point will be, but I have a feeling it will get a little more hallucinatory than that. I have huge hopes and dreams for it. Adapting the book is difficult because you have to decide what to keep and what to let go. The main character, here’s a guy who did everything he could to fit in, and in the end maybe he didn’t, but he discovered something amazing. And that’s what something that moves me very much. That’s the thing that attracts me.

What’s “White Devil” about?
It’s a true story. This guy was a bouncer at a Boston night club, and he broke up a fight. One of them was an Asian gentleman, and he gave him his business card, and said you call me if you ever need anything. The bouncer was destitute, so he called him and within a year he was the highest ranking white guy in the Asian mafia. He learned Mandarin Chinese, married an Asian woman, adopted her daughter and basically appropriates the culture for his own. It’s a similar theme I’ve played with before. A guy rejected by his own who did everything he could to fit in elsewhere even though it was illegitimate.

Wasn’t “We Own The Night” with Brad Pitt back in the day?
He contemplated doing it for a while. I’ve long sort of danced around things that he was going to do and he was dancing around things that I was going to do but it’s never come to pass for one reason or another. Then yeah, when he decided not to do it and it was about to sort of get into mothballs where it never gets made. But I was very pleased to have made it the way that I finally did.

You had an assassin’s movie with him in the lead as well.
Oh, “The Gray Man,” yeah that’s not going to happen [ed. Pitt unattached himself from the project last year and evidently Gray finally let this one go.]

That’s too bad, the POV approach sounded interesting. Are you still really trying to get your sci-fi film made?
I’m going to get that and “Lost City of Z” made. Those two are going to happen. I don’t have a cast for the sci-fi project yet, I’ve only written one draft of it. It needs more work done to it, particularly in the last third of the script.

What’s it called again?
Well right now the working title is “Ad Astra,” which means “To The Stars” in Latin. That’s the working title, but it won’t be the final title. The number of great science fiction movies you could pretty much count on one hand. I’m not even a huge fan of Tarkovsky’s “Solaris,” in fact I think it’s kind of one of his weaker movies. Conceptually, it’s got great stuff in it.

But even “Stalker” has a little bit of a metaphysical sci-finess to it.
That’s true. But I don’t love “Solaris,” I feel like it’s a little bit corny [pause]. But far be it for me to judge Tarkovsky. I sound like a complete jerk. That’s the way I feel about it, I would say “2001” obviously, which I think is a really obvious or amazing movie and certainly “Blade Runner” I love, and I love “Metropolis.” But once you’ve named those three where else do you go? Then people say to me what about “Alien”? I say, “I think ‘Alien’ is terrific,” but I also think it’s a horror movie. I don’t think it’s a science fiction movie, I think it’s a horror movie set in space.

So, what are you after exactly?
Well, I’ll tell you what happens mostly: we filmmakers all fall into the same trap which is to blow your mind at the end. Which is not possible. Audiences have seen everything, there’s nothing that’s going to be “awe-inspiring.” What happens really is that you have to come up with something conceptually amazing, not visually amazing. And that’s a challenge. It’s a challenge and I don’t want to make the film unless I think I’ve gotten it right. Now by the way, it’s probably likely that I’ll make the film and I’ll have blown it anyway but at least I want to be able to think that I haven’t blown it going in and I’m almost there feeling good about where I am on the narrative of that one, but I’m not there yet.

Where is “Lost City Of Z” going to shoot?
That would shoot in the U.K., probably Belfast, and Colombia. That’s got Benedict Cumberbatch who’s perfectly cast. I’ve raised the money for that, and I’ve raised the money for that and I may go do that in January.

The jungle sequences in Colombia?
Probably Colombia because they have—the lead character, he was actually in Brazil and Bolivia, but you can’t possibly shoot there. The infrastructure, there’s no … when I went down there there’s nothing there. Even Werner Herzog shot in Peru. Whereas when I went to scout in Bolvia—I mean you couldn’t shoot there. So, it looks like Colombia is a real option because it’s the correct vegetation, it’s the Amazon, it’s a jungle, it’s also got mountains and it’s got indigenous peoples who are correct for the movie. So it looks like it’s going to be there and then the U.K. segment is tough because London has really nothing going for it that is correct in terms of 1905.

Last time we spoke you mentioned it may have a David Lean-esque quality to it.
Yes, although David Lean is of course a major figure but … people have asked me about “Apocalypse Now” and those kind of movies. Of course those are all great and they’re a huge inspiration and so is Lean. But I’m really trying, the older I get and believe me my lower back tells me how much older I’m getting, I’m trying to forget the kind of approach which I’ve had. On the last two movies I’ve watched far fewer movies beforehand and I’m trying to come at the pieces as organically as I can and not think of other movies. Now of course unconsciously that shit’s always going to come out, I’m always going to rip off something.

“The Immigrant” opens May 16th in limited release and is worth seeing on the big screen if/when it comes to your town.

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I don’t recall the film being hated by UK critics, if anything – quite the contrary!


Marky Mark is "UNDERRATED"? The king of HBO mediocrity? You lost me.


I was thinking La Strada and Cabiria as well watching the film. Although I was glad it didn't take the route of tragedy/victim denouement a la Von Trier (and Fellini for that matter). You can tell he had too much compassion for Ewa to have her end up defeated.


Great interview and I agree with him on The Immigrant and Two Lovers being his best two films. The former is magnificent and Cotillard has rarely been as luminous.


James Gray saw Pulp Fiction with Paul Thomas Anderson? Weird. I wonder how that worked out

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