Following the screening of the film in which the industry audience laughed and gasped in equal measure at the dark plot twists, the writer-director Dan Gilroy joked “it’s about the triumph of the human spirit…it’s a feel good film.”
Here’s what we learned about the production of “Nightcrawler” from the Q&A, which also featured the film’s editor John Gilroy and producer Jennifer Fox:
The character of Lou drove the script:
“The genesis of the film in many ways was when I discovered there were people who went out at night and did this job I was was not aware of…It was when the character of Lou leapt off the page and grabbed me by the throat and demanded that I write him and plugged into the world ….Lou drives all the energy of the film.”
Gilroy, a veteran screenwriter (“The Bourne Legacy”), wrote “Nightcrawler” to direct himself.
“I wrote it in a way that I wanted to tell the story from a reader’s standpoint. As a screenwriter, you’re writing for a reader….I didn’t imagine staging the shots on the page. The style of the script is very different than anything I normally wrote. There were no interiors or exteriors. It was like one long run-on sentence. I was just trying to get the story out.” – Tony Gilroy
The film was edited by Gilroy’s brother John Gilroy (“The Bourne Legacy”), who has also worked on brother Tony Gilroy’s films.
“I try to plug in to the director and I have to say with Danny being my twin brother, it was pretty easy to plug into him and understand him….The kind of shorthand that you get with someone that you’ve done two or three pictures with, I had that with Danny from the beginning.” – John Gilroy
Jake Gyllenhaal treated the script like a play.
“This is a script that when I wrote it stayed true and Jake never changed a word of the script and approached it like a play and the people who came onboard embraced the script and the structure. So the shooting script was really what I wrote.” – Dan Gilroy
It was an intensely challenging schedule.
“We made it in 28 days for substantially less than $10 million. The challenge with 80 locations in L.A. The challenge of that, every night was a battle.” – Dan Gilroy
Shooting mostly at night helped fueled creativity on set.
“You go into this mindset that’s much more working on instinct, for someone like Dan who is so incredibly creative, and Jake as well, that can bring out some really interesting choices — especially for a film that’s thematically like ours.” – “Nightcrawler” producer Jennifer Fox
The movie was shot on both digital and 35 mm.
“There was a budgetary and a time issue in the sense that we were shooting at night and [DP] Robert Elswit is devoted to film and legitimately so. If Robert were here he could spend two hours explaining to us while film is this superior image in every way. And he’s right, but at night time, digital has the ability, like a sponge, to soak up light….When we got to our daytime shots, Robert was very much an advocate of shooting on film.” – Dan Gilroy
Being married to Renee Russo helped Gilroy work with actors.
“I’m married to Renee Russo and we’ve been married for quite a while. I have a very close collaborative relationship with her that goes beyond the film so when I write a script, I often will give her pages and she’ll look at them from an actor’s point of view and any writers out there know how beneficial that is. So I feel very comfortable working with actors.” – Dan Gilroy
Jake Gyllenhaal literally starved himself to play Lou.
“It was very much Jake’s idea and implementation to lose the 25-30 pounds he lost in the film and the genesis of that was that he had this symbolic totem animal of a coyote and a coyote is, as we all know, they’re perpetually hungry and lean. So Jake decided he wanted to lose that weight…it wasn’t just a physical choice that he made. Jake intuitively understood and I think it comes through on the screen when you watch it, there’s a very strange energy that emanates I would say from him, but it seems to come from his eyes. Where he’s not just hungry for food because every frame that you watch Jake Gyllenhaal in this film, he’s literally starving. Literally. He would ride his bike 15 miles to the set or run ten miles to the set and then he would have a kale salad. I think he was on one third of the caloric intake so when we’re watching him, he’s got this weird energy. I feel sometimes when he’s in the car with [co-star] Riz [Ahmed] that he’s going to like eat him.” – Dan Gilroy
They decided that less is more in terms of showing a sex scene.
“When I wrote the script and Jen [Fox] and I started to making the rounds, there were people who specifically said ‘I want to see the sex scene between Lou and Nina.’ But my feeling was there was nothing we could show that would match whatever each one of you is imagining. I don’t know who it was, but someone imagined that perhaps she’s reading him ‘Goodnight Moon’ as she’s putting him to bed which might be the kinkiest thing of all.” – Dan Gilroy
Jake had to get 46 stitches after cutting his hand while filming.
“Jake was showing up every night and he’s starving and has a tremendous energy and that night in particular, we were on hour 17, it was one of the last couple days of shooting, we were inside the apartment…He was in the bathroom and he was in front of the mirror and he channeled some level of anger he was feeling within the character, some level of frustration of where we are narratively in the plot and he slammed the mirror shut and it became apparent when he took his hand away, the second he walked away, he had cut the entire left thumb and it was hanging open and bleeding profusely. At this point, it was like five in the morning, but he and I went to Cedars [hospital] and we spent four hours while they gave him 46 stitches and there’s two scenes that we shot after that…if you’ll notice in the last scene, his hand is behind his back because he was wearing a very large Ace Bandage….that was eight hours after he got stitched up.”