Irishman John Moore is the type of fellow who you can talk easily with about anything – current events, writers, how the Irish can be fun but how they can also take you down a notch if they feel you need it. Here with Moviehole, Moore gets into the whole aspect of social media from directing his new thriller “I.T.” starring Pierce Brosnan (produced by Voltage Pictures). It’s just too bad we couldn’t have a whiskey at the time, then it would seem like we were back in some classic Irish pub, talking about James Joyce and the like.
Moviehole: How did you get into directing?
John Moore: I started off as a journalist/photographer. I wanted to be a photojournalist, and I got diverted somehow, I wasn’t good at it or I would be doing it if I was. I started doing cheap-ass videos, and then I got an incredibly lucky break in 1999 from Tom Rothman (chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Pictures Group). He caught a commercial of mine and offered me a movie, that’s how I got in. I ended up shooting five movies for Tom, I doubt I’d be in movies except for that lucky break. Robert Evans has a great quote about preparation meeting opportunity (“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation”).
That’s the great thing about America, you can walk in a room and get your shot and it’s up to you. Failing is not that painful, not trying is what haunts the soul. I was convinced that my directing was an aberration and I thought I would do it once and I would be unmasked as a fraud — that was my sense. “Behind Enemy Lines” was my first movie. I remember my lease on my apartment was running out in December and the movie was being released early November, I thought I’d go home after that and there were plenty of reviewers to encourage me. Thankfully I got to keep doing films for awhile.
I spent a good decade and a half working with big studios, it’s changed a lot; I think there’s a real director squeeze, of course I’m looking at this from my perspective, I think there’s something troubling going on. There are only a handful of real talented directors on a list, and I’m not on the list along with several others, there’s something a little structuring going on. I think directors are going to be called drivers (as in driving a movie).
When Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann die off, I don’t see a big crop of directors coming off after them. The independent sector is a joke right now, it’s actually dependent. And when a guy like Michael Mann struggles or there is the failure of “Snowden” with Oliver Stone who is a genius and he can’t get people to look in his direction, that’s odd.
Moviehole: I see a lot of independent movie trailers that seem all about angst and personal problems, mostly. What do you think about that?
JM: I have a theory and partly it’s about why I wanted to make “I.T.” – about the post 9/11 years, when people start to look on their own problems and that dominates their life. A person used to get depressed, think and then take action. Now we have a platform, which has millennials decrying their own existence across social media. The underlying need for affirmation is not trivial, it is worrying, it takes all sorts of forms, humblebragging or “I’m better than that.” When I made “I.T.,” I wasn’t interested in technology itself, only what it can do to people. It’s remarkable we are developing a consciousness about our social media on what type of people we are; my kid is nine years old and I see he is already developing an anxious sense about wanting to belong to one tribe or another.
Moviehole: What were the challenges of IT and how did you get onto this project?
JM: I got onto this with a personal connection with Pierce Brosnan, we were friendly over the years. The difference of making “I.T.” was existing in the mislabeled film world where you are not a studio and in the independent sector. The biggest challenge of existing in the independent sector is trying to stay true to the story because there’s all kinds of pressure to change things. The vast majority of that sector is full of undertalented people who exist at the grimy edges of legitimate film. There are real artists out there working, but the vast majority of independent movies are low-rent programming. The scope of independent movies has become far too broadly defined.
“I.T.” is a very anxious film, it’s getting a small release, the audience may catch it eventually. I hope they see it, it captures the anxiety going on in our society with technology.
Moviehole: What was it like working with Pierce Brosnan and Anna Friel? And writer Willam Wisher Jr. who worked on “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”?
JM: Pierce is a little underappreciated, there’s a price to pay for playing James Bond. Even though it’s been reinvented, it’s still a struggle for people like Daniel Craig. Pierce is a consistent great actor, but a lot of people still look at him and see him from his James Bond days. He is the most professional, most pleasant, most flat-out best person who I’ve ever worked with.
I could tell you some hair-curling stories about other actors. Working with Pierce was like going to the Swiss mountains and breathing pure air after some of my experiences. You will be surprised by where he goes, he can summon up great anger, that’s the sign of a great actor. Anna Friel was always right, all her ideas were always right, she’s a genius. Will (Wisher) and I go way back and have done a dozen projects together, I worked exclusively with Bill and it was a complete rewrite. I like to have Will around on set, and have him with the actors on set. Pierce, Bill, and Anna and I would sit around and talk and change things.
Moviehole: What advice would you give beginning directors trying to break in?
JM: Do whatever you have to do to stay naïve, naïve is the father of brilliance, it’s essential in vision. Do whatever you have to do to stay in a naïve place, because directing requires great naiveté. If you want to have an idea or vision or thought, you can’t be over influenced or jaded or dissuaded. The middle-aged directors are dangerous burnt out creatures, so stay the eff away from people like us. Hang out with the old guys or young friends. I was lucky to hang out with Dick Zanuck, Arnold Kopelson and with Richard Donner because I remade his film called “The Omen,” I feel very lucky I got to do that.
Moviehole: Who are your director idols and why?
JM: Michael Mann, Tony Scott and Michael Bay are all underestimated, especially Tony Scott. I’ve spent my life emulating him, I had the joy and pleasure meeting him. I loved every one of Tony’s movies, he’s the fun side of things, Michael Mann is my favorite serious director. I appreciate Michael Bay, I wish he would make more Benghazi movies and less “Transformer” movies. “13 Hours” will be his masterpiece, which informs and entertains.
Moviehole: Do you have a directing style?
JM: I try not to eff up, that’s my directing style (laughs). Anyone who tells you different is full of sh—t. If you make a mistake until people think it’s not a mistake, it’s your thing. All that matters is story, if style gets in the way of your story, you’re effing up. The styles are irrelevant, we’re not in fashion — we’re in storytelling.
Moviehole: What are your long-term goals?
JM: Existence, staying alive is my number one goal – mine would be, and now I have a goal which is for my kid to think I am an okay guy.
Moviehole: Upcoming projects?
JM: What I’m doing next, is that I’m going to reteam with Will Wisher and Pierce. We had such a good time that we dreamt up a movie called “Eye Witness,” it’s a small movie, but when you get a good group of people, it’s like playing in a band.
We hope to follow up with Moore when he does, and maybe grab that whiskey.