0 Comments | Add
Rate & Share:
Alex Proyas Illuminates DARK CITY, Part 2
The conclusions of the director's question and answer session.
By Steve Biodrowski
September 10, 2000
[Editor's Note: In Part One, we looked at the American Cinemateque's screening of Dark City at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, part of their First Annual Festival of Fantasy, Horror & Science-Fiction. The screening was followed by a question-and-answer session with Alex Proyas (director and co-writer) and David Goyer (co-writer), conducted by Dennis Bartok.]
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE CASTING? YOU REALLY HIT IT DEAD ON.Alex Proyas:
Well, Rufus [Sewell] is someone I had wanted to work with for quite a while. I always felt he would be great in the lead. I didn't really want someone that was kind of going through this entire experience in the movie, questioning who he was, while [viewers] are going, 'We know who you arewe've seen you in a million other movies.' So for me it was a great thing having someone new and fresh. Also, he's a great actor; he fit the character, which is always the most important thing. It happens so rarely, I guess, in the movies. So much of the casting happens based on who is the correct box office for the movie; we obviously didn't do that.
I felt he would be strong in the lead, and then I would just surround him with some more established actors, but also people that I just wanted to work with. Keifer [Sutherland] is someone I had been wanting to work with for a while, and Richard O'Brien as well was someone that was perfect for this character. I can't imagine anyone else playing the character that he did. So it was an elaborate process.David Goyer
: To New Line's credit, they let you cast anybody you want. They pretty much stayed out of it. This film was an incredibly refreshing experience. They basically just let Alex do exactly what he wanted; there was...almost no interference.Alex Proyas:
Yeah, you get these lists of who they will make the film with, who the studios will make the film with. The New Line list for the role of Murdoch [the lead played by Sewell] had a whole bunch of people. I remember David Letterman was one of the people! [audience laughter] I figured they had a pretty broad approach to that character. That would have been a really interesting version of the movie.
THE VISUAL TEXTURES OF THE FILM ARE SO RICH. HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH DARIUSZ WOLSKI? DID YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN A LOT OF THINGS?Alex Proyas:
No, we don't talk very much on the set. Particularly as the film wears on, you get more and more sick of the sight of each otheryou don't actually say that much. But I had also done The Crow
with Dariusz as well, so we had a real shorthand. I really enjoy that way of working with people, because I tend to be very moody on the set and like to thing my thoughts, so the less I have to say to people, the better, so that part of the process worked very well.
THERE IS ALSO A GREAT SCORE BY TREVOR JONES. AT ONE POINT DID YOU SIT DOWN AND TALK WITH TREVOR ABOUT THE MUSICAL TONE OF THE FILM?Alex Proyas:
Working with Trevor was really quite amazing, because we had so little time. For some reason, we backed ourselves into our corner, running out of the time we left ourselves for scoring the movie. He worked in London; the film was being made in Sydney, and we literally had oneI think we had two days to spot the movie. So we sat down, went through the entire movieand I think I'd had maybe a couple of phone calls with him before that. We just sat down two days solid and went through the entire film and discussed each scenea very short amount of time to do that.
Then he went back to London, because that's where he works, and he was working with the orchestra in London. I can't remember exactly how much time he had to do the score, but it was really compressed: he was working around the clock; he wasn't sleeping at all. And I remember flying to London and coming into the thick of this thing, when he had maybe two weeks to finish the score so we could mix the film. I remember getting on the plane and thinking, 'This is going to be a total disaster,' because I had so little involvement with the music and that always makes me very, very nervous. I walked in and he played me a piece. I remember him playing me the theme on his piano in his living room; then he took me into his little studio and played me some of the music, and I was blown away. I thought he did a fantastic job. So that was the extent of my working relationship. It's not often I work that distantly from people I collaborate with, but in this case it had to be, and the result was wonderful.
IF YOU'RE SHOOTING A JOHN CASSAVETTES TYPE FILM, IT IS FAIRLY EASY TO REWRITE AND RESHOOT. IF YOU HAVE A MOVIE OF THIS SCALE AND COMPLEXITY, HOW EASY IS IT TO MODIFY YOUR IDEAS OR TO IMPROVISE?David Goyer
: Believe it or not, we actually did some of that. It was a crazy experience. The movie shot forever, and I remember we were rewriting and rewriting right up until production. Then I was supposed to go to Botswana, and then there was some problem and I was tracked down in Zimbabwe. I had to come back to Sydney. We were rewriting scenes while we were shooting. Sometimes I was back in the states and we'd have these crazy late night phone calls and I'd fax scenes to [Australia]. Then we did reshooting, but it was terrifying because the movie was like this Chinese box, and it wasn't just a simple film where you could come up with a scene and slot it in. You were terrifiedor at least I wasthat every time we would change something tiny, the entire thing would lose integrity and fall apart. So I'm sitting there, watching it, and I'm thinking, 'Wow, that's really air tight!' I can't believe it. We were so freaked out. I was constantly thinking, 'We're missing something.'
SEVERAL PEOPLE ASKED ME BEFORE HAND, SO I HAVE TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE OPENING VOICE OVER: IS THAT IN FACT SOMETHING THAT YOU WANTED FROM THE BEGINNING, OR WAS IT ADDED BY THE STUDIO?Alex Proyas:
I think every director dreams of giving away his entire movie in a stupid voice over. [audience laughter] I believe there's a certain cult of turning the soundtrack off until you see Keifer Sutherland at the beginning of the movie, and I think that really rocks, actually. [enthusiastic audience applause]
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?Alex Proyas:
I've actually for the last six months been working on a very elaborate website, and I'm convinced I'm probably going to go broke doing this thing, like a lot of other people have, but it's really an exciting medium. I'm this guy who really wasn't even using e-mail until about a year ago and I discovered this new way of showing entertainment. It seems like the technology is rapidly moving forward. I'll be creating short films and animation specifically for the website, so that's the next thing. It's called MysteryClock.Com, which is the production company that made the film. It's going to be launching in about two months time.David Goyer
: In a couple of weeks we're going to start pre-production on the sequel to Blade
that Guillermo Del Toro is directing; he did Cronos
. Then the director of the original Blade
,Stephen NorringtonI'm going to do a movie with him, Ghost Rider
. And I think the people we are making it for don't realize how disturbing it's going to be. It's sort of like Dark City
in that it's being done as a negative pickup, so I think we're going to have an enormous amount of freedom to do something pretty insane.
WAS IT DIFFICULT TO GET NEW LINE TO LET YOU SHOOT THIS IN AUSTRALIA, AND IN WHAT WAY WAS WRITER DENNIS POTTER [PENNIES FROM HEAVEN
] AN INFLUENCE?Alex Proyas:
No, it wasn't difficult, because it was the only way we could afford to make the film. The film cost $27-million to make, and it was not easy to make it for that amount of money, but it would have been impossible to do that, I imagine, here.David Goyer
: What was brilliant about Australia was that it was so remote from the studio. There was a huge delay in getting the dailies, and they didn't want to bother sending anybody out. So it was just like 'Oh, they're off on the other side of the world, and we don't know what they're doing.'Alex Proyas:
By the time they checked the dailies, the sets would have been ripped down and we would have been moved on, so they really had to hate something for us to go back.
And the Dennis Potter thing was simply that very early on I actually approached Dennis to work with me on the script. He politely declined. This was at the time that he was quite ill and no one knew that was the case. He sent me this fantastic letter that re-established my desire to make this film. He was extremely supportive of this script, which is why the credit is there.David Goyer
: He said you were insane or he was frightened of you.Alex Proyas:
Yeah, he was frightened of me. He said I was insane. I appreciate that.David Goyer
: There was a funny thing about the title. You know, it was Dark City, Dark City
, and then Warner Bros., who is the parent company of New Line, was going to release Mad City
, so they said, 'You can't call it Dark City
anymore,' even though it had been Dark City
for a million years. Then it was Dark World
, right? Then Lost World
was coming out, so it couldn't be Dark WorldAlex Proyas:
Yeah, it was Dark World
, and Spielberg owned the word 'World.' Then we were going to make it Dark Empire
, and another guy owned that word. David Goyer
: By this time, Mad World
had come out and stiffed, so they said, 'You can go back to Dark City
.' But I love itit got exponentially bigger: City, World, Empire. Then it shrunk back down to 'City.'
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT WORKING WITH BRANDON LEE ON THE CROW
Brandon was a great friend, you know. So it's very hard to divorce me working with him as a director. It was great to work with him as a director, but above everything else he was a good friend.DARK CITY
IS A VERY FAST-PACED FILM. WAS IT ALWAYS PLANNED THAT WAY, OR WAS IT TIGHTENED IN THE EDITING?Alex Proyas:
I like things a bit fast paced, so it was always planned to be pretty fast.
WELL, IT'S A TREMENDOUS PIECE OF FILMMAKING, AND I'M SO GLAD THAT YOU, ALEX, WERE ABLE TO COME ALL THE WAY FROM AUSTRALIA TO JOIN US. THANK YOU ALL FOR COMING. [enthusiastic applause from the audience]