7 Questions with Michael Lindsey-Hogg, Director, and Renee Missel, Producer of "Guy"
by Stephen Garrett
Among the holiday delights in theaters this December is the decidedly
non-festive “Guy“, a riveting portrait of man named Guy (Vincent
D’Onofrio) followed relentlessly by a woman documentarian (Hope Davis)
who refuses to tell him why he’s being filmed, or even reveal her own
name, for the sake of objectivity and distance. As time passes, the
woman’s invasive persistence pays off, and she is allowed to film all of
Guy’s life — everything from a quick bathroom visit to sex with his
girlfriend. Despite himself, Guy falls deeply in love with the
documentarian, and constantly battles her rebuffs and insistence on not
getting involved. Kirby Dick’s screenplay is the foundation for easily
the most original movie this year, and is also a wonderfully stimulating
meditation on the nature of film, the subjective power of the camera,
and the ways in which people reveal and protect their emotions. “Guy”
opens in Los Angeles on Dec. 17.
indieWIRE: What was the greatest challenge for you, Renee, in producing
“Guy”, especially coming off of a studio film like “Nell”?
Renee Missel: The challenge was not getting too depressed at how little
money you have, because I wasn’t used to that. And suddenly people
talked to you as if you’re doing porno. All these agents who respected
me tremendously the moment I was doing “Guy”, suddenly the way they dealt
with me changed thoroughly. They were worried — they were worried that
the sex scene would be too explicit, that it was going to be in bad
iW: If anything, the film is a model of restraint — and the sex scene’s
not gratuitous in the film: there’s a specific psychological and
emotional function it serves.
Missel: Yes, it could have gone way out there with that scene, and we
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Because the scene is shot really almost clinically
or objectively, people aren’t used to that. They’re used to what they
know is a created sex scene, whereas this seems to be something which
actually happens. Interestingly, a lot of women say that they find it a
very sexy scene. One of the interesting things in that scene as well are
the layers of betrayal — that he’s making love to one person, but yet
his orgasm and the experience is for the person that’s watching him.
Betraying his physical lover in order to give to his non-physical lover.
iW: Michael, what got you interested in the script?
Lindsay-Hogg: What I liked about the script was all the issues Kirby raised in
the script, which are a kind of love story, a story about obsession, a
story about people getting trapped in a web of their own making and also
all the issues of privacy, how we lend ourselves to being available to
other people, how we hide from other people, how we wish to control
relationships. I thought there was a really interesting number of tasty
ingredients in this. What’s interesting is that Vincent’s character
doesn’t want to reveal himself right away, and because it’s a woman he’s
dealing with and because she’s so persistent, he gradually lets his
guard down. And once his guard is down she kind of stalks him with her
presence and he gets caught. All the layers in there are very
iW: Was part of the appeal of the project the challenge of a
two-character piece where the camera constantly stays on one person
while the other person is always offscreen?
Lindsay-Hogg: I think directors, like athletes, like putting themselves to the
test: can I run the distance quicker than someone else has run it; and
not just can I do it well, but can I do it differently or better? That
was a very interesting thing: how to tell a story while never for all
intents and purposes seeing one of the characters. And how do you do
that in a way that doesn’t make it boring — yeah, sure, that was a very
exciting thing to do because I’d never done that before.
iW: How did Hope Davis get involved?
Missel: In the early stages, she was one of the first people that we talked
to. We had her in mind for the girlfriend for a while rather than for
the heroine. It’s interesting — you read a script like this and you
think, “my God, the voice is crucial — it has to be the voice of a
siren.” So we first cast Robin Tunney from “Niagara, Niagara” because her
voice is so sensual; but then we found that that didn’t work, that it
was taking the energy out of the character, that instead of driving the
piece the piece was lying flat because Vincent is also doing a passive
thing — Vincent is being assaulted, he’s the one being raped. And
Robin’s a wonderful actress, but that sultry, very sexy voice — it
wasn’t driving enough, whereas Hope Davis has an amazing tension — she
doesn’t have a great voice, but there’s tension in her voice and you
sense her insanity. And you sense that she’s right on the edge.
iW: Were there certain scenes from earlier drafts that either
technically or creatively were altered drastically or couldn’t be done?
Missel: Certain things that were always in question were the hotel room —
does he really rape her or does he stop himself. And Kirby really wanted
him to rape her and I really did not want that. I felt it was pivotal
that he go right to the edge and then pull himself back — because,
after all, he is the hero. And many friends of Kirby Dick’s said that
the woman deserved to be raped and I said, “yes, maybe she does. But
that doesn’t mean that he has to be the one doing it.”
iW: Gramercy’s ad campaign plays up the film as a romance, which
Missel: They’re going romantic, yeah, I know. And the foreign campaign is
much harder and edgier. A little more Generation X. But they’re selling
it here as a love story, which it is — a love story, but it’s a very
peculiar love story that’s very disturbed and it doesn’t let you know
there’s a darkness to this. And there are so many movies nowadays — I
mean, when they told me originally that they were going to open on the
same day as “Titanic“, I said, “please let us open on a Wednesday so we
can get some reviews, because otherwise we’re dead.” And thank God they
gave in on that one. And I’ve found that it’s a hard film for people to
accept and take — and they get very angry, especially men over forty.
Lindsay-Hogg: I think it’s because it’s untraditional in its form and it
disquiets people. In this picture it very much depends on:
a) how you react to the form, and
b) if you like Vincent and you find yourself sucked into his
relationship. Because of the untraditional set-up the movie has, some
people turn off early on to the experience. Other times people find the
candor of the thing disquieting. It’s all taste.
[Stephen Garrett, a frequent contributor to indieWIRE, is a writer and
editor based in Los Angeles.]