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How to Promote ‘A Most Wanted Man’ Without Philip Seymour Hoffman: Anton Corbijn on the Hard Experience

How to Promote 'A Most Wanted Man' Without Philip Seymour Hoffman: Anton Corbijn on the Hard Experience

Philip was with you when the film first premiered at Sundance earlier this year. What’s it been like to promote the film in the wake of his passing?

It’s hard, I find. I feel that because his performance is so extraordinary in the film, that’s a great help. I’d say, ignore what happened afterwards and just look at the film as it is, and the performance. He deserves attention just for that, not because of what happened afterwards.

READ MORE: Indiewire Podcast: From Comic-Con to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar Odds

Obviously people look at the film differently now. I understand that, that the weight of the film has changed. People become more aware of the fact that they’re not going to see more of that in the future. I mean it’s very hard for me to talk about because I’m promoting a film and I don’t want it to become a sales pitch. It’s personal. So, privately I find it very difficult and I find it very hard to watch the film myself. But I’m very happy that Phil left us a great, incredible performance.
Roadside has done a great job of not marketing it as his final great role. Did you play a role in that?
No. I don’t think so. I think we all realized that it was a very awkward situation and we should let the film speak for itself. The book of the film, “Looking at the Most Haunted Man,” I put together last year. There was an idea from somebody to put a sticker on it saying it was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last film. I hate that. I think that’s so cheap. So obviously it didn’t happen.

Do you relate to the way Hoffman’s character looks at the world?
To a degree. I think basically he is a good, honest guy who fights the system in a way. And you know he’s not an Islamaphobic kind of guy — he speaks Arabic as you can see when he orders cigarettes. He’s home in that world and he doesn’t want it to become a worse place. I think he’s a good-hearted kind. But he’s a no-bullshit guy at the same time. I like that. 
Are you a no-bullshit kind of guy on set?
No. I wish. I’m not someone who shouts. Phil’s character is a character to be admired in a way. No small talk.
Working with someone like Philip following your experience with George Clooney on “The American,” who’s known for being a jokester on set, must have been like night and day. I read Philip stayed in character for most of the shoot.
I mean, you would go out with him in the evening and he was looser, but I think for him it was important to get to the depth of the character by not chasing off too much. And he’s a very likable man, Phil. But I think he behaved off screen a little bit how he behaved on screen in terms of his alliances with certain people in the film. He would be a lot friendlier to his on screen colleagues than to his adversaries in the film.
Did you cast American actors and have them adopt German accents purely for commercial reasons, or were they just the best fit for the job?

It was a bit of both. We couldn’t finance a film with purely German actors to the degree we wanted it to. There’s only three people that might have been German and now are American in the film. Robin Wright’s role was always going to be an American, the CIA operative. So it was Bachmann, Rachel’s role and Willem’s role. And Willem is of Scottish descendant, but also partly Austrian. So there was already a bit of German in there. That left us with Philip and Rachel. They both had voice coaches because I wanted them to sound German-sounding when they spoke English. 
They really worked hard on it. I think Phil doesn’t care much about looking back on a scene. He instinctively knows if it’s going to work or if he must have another go. But he always listened to how his accent was and he would do it again if it wasn’t right. So he payed a lot of attention to that.

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