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26 San Diego Uptown News | Apr. 1–14, 2011

Kick- Ass flick with brains

Interview with ‘Hanna’ director, Joe Wright

By Scott Marks SDUN Film Critic

You may know British-born

director Joe Wright for his stellar adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” or the splendid cinematic puzzle “Atonement,” for which he re- ceived an Academy Award nomina- tion. “Hanna” is his crossover film; it’s “Kick-Ass”—only with brains. The action fantasy stars Saoirse Ronan as 16-year old recluse raised by her father, a former CIA operative, to be a world-class kill- ing machine. The teenager decides it’s time for her to cut the apron strings and venture beyond her secluded Finnish forest and into polite society, where the merciless Cate Blanchett hunts her down. Wright and his wife are spend- ing some time celebrating the birth of their first child with family in Encinitas. Since Wright was in the neighborhood, he was kind enough to make the promotional rounds to ballyhoo his latest film.

SCOTT MARKS: First off, I want to thank you for “Atonement.” You really sucked me in with that one, and the unexpected charac- ter reversal was such a welcome cinematic right to the jaw.

JOE WRIGHT: Well, thank you.

SM: I detect from your movies that you have more than a fleeting interest in the history of cinema. Do you remember the first film you saw in a theatre?


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Director Joe Wright on the set of his latest, “Hanna.”

JW: I do. It was “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” I spent most of the film hiding behind my seat. I was terrified.

SM: So was I. When was the first time you realized that there was someone behind the camera?

JW: I guess it was “Great Expecta- tions,” David Lean’s movie. I was very excited by that, and I remem- ber going to school the next day—I must have been about eight—and deciding that I was going to remake it. I made a gravestone, and I was going to do the famous Magwitch scene in the graveyard. (Clearing his throat.) Unfortu- nately I didn’t quite understand cameras, and so I didn’t really know that you needed one.

SM: David Lean has had a tremen- dous influence on your filmmaking style. I know what a fan you are of “Brief Encounter,” particularly Celia Johnson’s performance.

JW: Very much so. I love David Lean and Celia Johnson, particu- larly when Noel Coward is writing for both of them.

SM: What are your thoughts on digital filmmaking as opposed to shooting on good, old 35mm film stock?

JW: Well, we have to accept that technology is moving on and progress is inevitable. I still shoot on film. I don’t think the digital medium has quite yet got the same subtlety. I try and keep an open mind, but I’m afraid I’m a bit of a Luddite at heart.

SM: Good for you. And here is another point on which we both agree. You are quoted as saying, “To me, naturalism is the death of drama. Lee Strasberg came along and the Method f***ed everything up.” Is that an accurate statement of your feelings?

JW: Yep. That is an accurate state- ment.

SM: I’m all for a representation of realism, but wasn’t it Orson Welles who said, “If you want reality look out a window?”

JW: (Laughing) That’s a great quote, isn’t it? The method school was an interesting experiment at the time, but it’s never been

challenged since. I find it odd that every other aspect of filmmaking has developed, but acting it seems hasn’t and I think acting is an important art. It is something that can teach us about the nature of being human, so I think it’s about time (the Method) got shook up a little bit.

SM: You have yet to take screen- writer’s credit on any of your four features. Why is that?

JW: I always work with writers, and I respect writers very much. It’s only fair that the credits are split. I like to work very closely with the writers. That’s an impor- tant thing to me.

SM: I read that Saoirse Ronan specifically requested that the studio bring you on-board to direct “Hanna.”

JW: (Laughing) She did, and it’s all her fault!

SM: I can’t believe that she has that much clout.

JW: I think perhaps if the studio had been against it she might not have gone very far. I’ve worked

with Focus Features before and we get on well, so her request didn’t fall on deaf ears.

SM: Have you seen “Kick Ass?”

JW: Yes. I saw it after making “Hanna.” I think they were shoot- ing whilst we were about to go into production, and I didn’t know anything about it until after we finished shooting. I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great, fun film.

SM: I wasn’t a fan, but I think it’s safe to say “Hanna” is the adult version of “Kick Ass.”

JW: I think it deals with themes that probably are a little more sophisticated.

SM: Let’s talk about the premise to “Hanna.” Why would her father even bother owning a tracking device that could tip the bad guys to his daughter‘s whereabouts? Couldn’t he have figured out some way to slip his daughter into soci- ety without Marissa (Blanchett) getting wise to her whereabouts?

JW: I needed something to begin my story!

SM: I’ll usually allow every film I see one…. What’s the word I’m looking for?

JW: Fault?

SM: No. I’m much less forgiving when it comes to faults. Coinci- dence. I’ll usually allow every film one, and only one, coincidence in order to move things along. If this is your example of a device needed to jumpstart your movie, I’ll go along with that.

JW: I think also that it’s a fairy tale. I saw the tracking device as being almost like a magical chalice. It’s the red switch to bring on fate, and it operates on that level. I was never trying to make a naturalistic film. I hoped that it would have emotional truth, but I wanted to make a film that existed in the realm of dreams and nightmares rather than in the terrestrial world we live in.u


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