After seeing the film 'Moon', I was really looking forward to meeting Director Duncan Jones. It’s rare that I get excited to talk to a director, but I was so blown away by the fact that this was Jones first feature and knowing that the film was made for a paltry $5 million, I was eager to meet this up and coming independent filmmaker.
Walking into the room I was pleasantly surprised to find a laid- back guy in his thirties decked out in a simple t-shirt and jeans; Jones whole demeanor was that of someone calm cool and collected. Having grown up as rock royalty, Jones’ father is none other than David Bowie; one would think there might be an air of conceit or cockiness when he speaks, but quite the contrary. In fact, Jones has made a point to try and do everything on his own throughout his life.
Before venturing into directing, Jones had done a stint as a PHD student, but quickly realized it wasn’t for him and dropped out. He had an opportunity to work on set with Ridley Scott and realized filmmaking is where his true passion was. Jones began directing commercials, directing for different ad agencies. The two are very different worlds so Jones knew making the leap from commercials to features would have its challenges.
“It’s a very different kind of job working on commercials. On commercials you tend to shoot things as much time as it takes as much money as it takes to get it right. On independent science fiction feature films, you shoot things two or three takes until you get what you barely need and then you move on. It’s a very very different approach.”
Of course, inhabiting the world of commercials equipped Jones with valuable skills.
“Doing commercials was a training ground for working on features. It was a training ground. Working on commercials you do learn about budgets, and you learn about all the equipment on set and you learn about new technologies.”
Jones knew Trudie Styler, the producer of 'Moon', through short films that he had done. Styler had asked Jones for his opinion on another project that she was working on.
"For whatever reason she liked what I had to say and I think in the back of her mind I was someone she wanted to keep an eye on. She knew that as a young filmmaker I was out there and when it came time to make my first feature, she was one of the people that we approached. She was aware of me and it worked out well," Jones said, adding that Styler has a knack for mentoring young talent. "She actually gave a Guy Ritchie his start with ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; she’s supportive of a lot of UK filmmakers.”
The film is a homage of sorts to a lot of classic 1970’s and 1980’s sci-fi features including, Alien, Outland, and Silent Running.
"These were films that I remember growing up and that Sam (Rockwell) remembers and were talking about when we met three years ago. Moon was written for Sam and as a subject matter we knew we wanted to do science fiction," Jones said. "We knew we wanted to do something specific to those films and it was a very human story. I think the focus on the person instead of going from one special effect set piece to the next one makes it very different from the science fiction that is coming out now.”
Jones had become acquainted with Rockwell on another project, although that one didn’t pan out. The two got along quite well and so Jones knew he wanted to create a project specifically with Rockwell in mind.
“I was a huge fan of his for a long time, even from the popcorn films like 'Charlie’s Angels'. I loved in 'Green Mile'; every time I see him I think he steals the scene," Jones enthused about his leading man. "He has so much charisma and there is something so empathetic about him. I think he is one of the most underrated actors in the United States and I wanted to work with him…
"We started talking about the kinds of films we loved and the kinds of roles he wanted to play as an actor. I said look, if you promise to read it, I will write something for you and that’s kind of where it started.”
For a modest-budget science fiction film, 'Moon' certainly feels very authentic. Jones knew he'd done something right when he screened the movie for NASA.
"They were fantastic. We did a screening at SXSW and we did a screening at the NASA space center. About 80% of the audience was NASA employees, Astronaut Tom Jones was there, and he did a few songs. No I am kidding. The NASA screening was great."
In terms of the music was Jones ever interested in using any of his father’s work? 'Space Oddity' seems an obvious selection, but Jones had other plans.
"It is not that it would have been cliché, but I’ve made a real conscious choice to do everything I could on my own and I think that would be sort of cashing in in a way I really didn’t want to," Jones said, but adds, "Not to mention I couldn’t have afforded the rights anyway."
It’s clear that Jones is talented in his own respect and with 'Moon', is certain to have a long career ahead of him. During the interview Jones was pretty secretive about upcoming projects, but it was just reported that he is set to direct 'Escape from the Deep', an action movie based on a true story set in World War II about the US navy submarine that sank, which left the crew stranded at the bottom of the ocean.
In the meantime 'Moon' opens in select theaters on June 12th. Visit Moon-movie.com for more information.