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Interview : Duncan Jones

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Though the acclaimed new film ‘’Moon” may be filmmaker Duncan Jones first direct taste of fame, he’s well-aware of how the entertainment industry works. As the son of famed musician David Bowie, Jones has grown up around bright lights, pushy publicists and star-studded premieres. He’s also aware, having watched his famous father operate, that you’ve got to really work, and unquestionably give everything and anything your all, to get rewards.

In “Moon”, acclaimed actor Sam Rockwell (“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”, “The Green Mile”) plays a solitary lunar employee who finds that he may not be able to go home to Earth so easily. It’s an amazing turn from Rockwell, and in an equally impressive film.

We’re sure to be seeing more of Duncan Jones in the future.

Are we likely to see you onboard the first commercial flight to the Moon?

Its 200,000 a ticket – the film hasn’t done well yet! [Laughs] No, I’m more interested in making movies about going to the moon, rather than actually going to outer space. I’m not willing to take that risk in my life just yet; too many things I want to do first – have a family, things like that. One of the producers on the film, a guy called Trevor Beattie, will be doing it though – he’s going to be one of the first customers on Virgin Galactic.

Have you screened the film for astronauts?

Yeah, we did a screening at the NASA Space Centre – it was fantastic. About eighty percent of the people there were NASA employees – Tom Jones was there; no not the singer, the astronaut. He didn’t do songs [Laughs]. We did a Q&A afterwards.  They asked a few questions and then it ended up me asking most of the questions, and them answering.

How did you meet producer Trudi Styler?

I’d known Trudi for a few years actually. I’m not quite sure where it started. I’d done a short film that she’d really liked. And she had done some films that she’d asked me to come in and give an opinion on – she wanted an independent opinion on some of these films. For some reason, she always liked what I had to say, and I think I’ve always been someone she’s had in the back of her mind as someone to keep an eye on. As a young filmmaker, she felt I was ‘out there’. When it was time to make my first feature film, she was one of the people that we approached. It worked out well.

She worked with Guy Ritchie, right?

She did. She gave Guy his start with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. She’s very supportive of UK filmmakers.

What have you found to be the biggest difference between working on commercials and working on films?

With commercials, you tend to have as much time as it takes, and as much money as it takes, but with independent science-fiction films you get two or three takes until you get absolutely what you barely need before you have to move on. It’s certainly a different approach, but I think doing commercials is a massively beneficial training ground. Through working on commercials, you learn about budgets, you learn about all the equipment on a set, and you work with new technologies all the time because you have new projects every month or two. You also get used to having people looking over your shoulder.

The film seems to be a homage to 70s science-fiction movies

Yes, absolutely. There were a couple of films growing up that both myself, and Sam Rockwell, were huge fans of – Outland, Silent Running, Ridley Scott’s Alien. We were talking about three years ago – because Moon was written for Sam – about how we wanted to do something science-fiction but also something specific to those [abovementioned] films where it was science-fiction about people, and how they’re effected by the future… these sorta science-fiction environments. I think that focus on the person, rather than going from one special effects set piece to another, is what makes it very different to a lot of other science-fiction films that are coming out right now.

Now, why Sam Rockwell? I mean he’s brilliant but he’s never exactly been a marquee name…

Well, he did the George Clooney flick Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but I was a huge fan of his for a long time – even his popcorn films, like Charlie’s Angels. I loved him in Green Mile, I loved him in Lawn Dogs… every time I see him he steals the scene. He’s got so much charisma, and there’s something so empathetic about him. You really care about him. I just always thought there was so much to him. He’s one of the most underrated actors in the United States. And I wanted to work with him. So I met up with him about another project, about three years ago, and we got on very well. That project didn’t work out – I wanted him to play one role, he wanted to play another, and we couldn’t convince each other – but it was at the meeting that we just started talking about the kinds of films that we love, and the roles that he wanted to play as an actor. I said to him ‘If you promise to read it, I’ll write something for you’.

What films did you want him to watch before doing the film?

The one film I wanted him to watch was Dead Ringers – I though it’d give him a idea on how to differentiate between characters. A role that’s very important to him is the Dustin Hoffman role in Midnight Cowboy. From an acting point-of-view, that was a touchstone for him. I remember that that was always the film that he was referencing a lot.

You had a lot of great props – like the recycled containers – how did they come about?

Oh, this is embarrassing. This is a question I haven’t been asked before [Laughs]. I was eating at a takeaway Mexican restaurant while I was working on the film – they would even stay open late for me; I believe I gave them a special thanks in the credits – and they used those containers. So that was their packaging.

So this was in L.A?

No, no. We filmed at all in Shepperton studios in L.A. You wouldn’t think there’d be Mexico food in the UK, but there is – it’s true! [Laughs]

What were you thinking with the ending?

[Laughs] What were you thinking!? We tried it without that – and just the visuals – but it just felt a little too 70s for my liking. It was really flat, really dead. I thought that was a nice way of splitting the difference between actually showing what happens when he got back to earth and keeping this sombre, deadpan, no-audio thing. But if I get to do Moon 2, which we’re hoping to do, we’re going to get Sam to do a very small cameo that explains what happens to him when he got back to Earth.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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