Hey Mister D.J. 

… `Eagle Eye` started with an idea from Spielberg? Is that correct?

Yeah, yeah, you know, he had this idea, I guess about 10 or 12 years ago, and ... he thought it’d either be a great movie or video game.

I was thinkin’ that! I swear I was thinkin’ that.

Were you thinking that? Yeah … So, he thought it’d be a great movie or a great video game, and … he kind of let it sit for a while and then he saw, like, the technology that was kinda getting integrated in our lives was helping … it catch up to the storytelling. So, you know, and then he brought, he gave it to Alex `Kurtzman` and Bob `Roberto Orci`, uh, and then kinda hooked us up … together, so it kinda, it sorta, it’s weird the timing worked out well.

It’s ’cause he’s that influential. He just kind of writes a movie, and then everything catches up to him so he can make it.

Well, you know, I was thinking … when you look at Minority Report, you kind of go, it’s almost like they were using an iPhone, you know what I mean? … He’s a visionary.   

Well, the film, I think, really works really well.

Thank you.

In much the same way, I think, that Disturbia works so well, is that it’s, and, I mean, they say this, but it’s a thriller where the story is important, and you care about the characters.

`overlapping` You care about the characters.

It’s a cliché, but it’s what you go for.

No, but, you do go for it, but a lot of peop — I mean, not that we pull it `off`, but a lot of people think they’re going for character, but they’re really not, you know what I mean? They’re not. And it’s really important that we take the time to establish who these characters are in Eagle Eye and, like, Disturbia, we spend the first reel, the first 20 minutes, getting to know who they are before we send them into the circumstances, so you really feel attached to them.

I agree. And I think a lot of movies get a pass, and it’s fine when they don’t do that —

Yeah … no, you guys should be entertained, and I mean, this is just an entertaining movie, too, but you try to always get a little bit deeper, and this also … even though it’s entertaining, … there’s a cautionary element to it, you know, about the technology, and also about, like, government accountability, once you figure out why this is all happening.

Definitely … and I think … a lot of caring about the characters, obviously, is the writing, but I think a lot of it is the casting. And I want to talk about Shia in a couple seconds … your movies always draw such a good cast.

Yeah, I feel I’ve been blessed, you know, I’ve been blessed. But, like, yeah, the supporting cast in this movie is fantastic.

Were you involved in the casting process pretty heavily, I’d imagine?

Yeah, no, you definitely are, but it’s one of those things where you kind of go, um, you know, I, when I read `the character of` Rachel and then I kinda knew, ’cause I, and, you know, like, the original … role of Jerry was written much older, like 28, 29, and it felt kinda weird, like, it felt neurotic, like, if a guy’s looking for himself, you know what I mean? Like it felt like it, not in a bad way, but it felt like, if you’re 22, 23 and you’re right out of college … But I saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and I just fell in love with Michelle Monaghan. I thought, like, “Oh my God” — first of all, I didn’t know who she was , and she’s, of course, amazing. And then so, given that opportunity, you kind of make … mental notes … like, if I ever have something, and then, like, a fiery single mother in Chicago, I thought she’d be great, you know what I mean? I thought she’d be great, and then, what I liked about Billy Bob `Thornton` was, I hadn’t seen him do a movie like this in a long time, and that he sort of was becoming — well, he’s that good independent guy, but now he does those funny, like, dirty funny movies.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

… And so, I thought it’d be fun to take his wi — and he’s out of his mind, and I mean that in an endearing way …

Oh, he’s awesome.

… to take that personality and put it into sort of an FBI guy, and so he bought into that, and, it all started to come together, … and then, Rosario `Dawson`, who I’ve always loved, and I think she’s an amazingly vibrant, sexy, great, smart woman, it was nice to sort of, I don’t want to say take the sexiness out of her, but just to show how, how on fire she can be, and how … how her personality can come through, and shine through in a role. So. It was fun, you know? It was good to mix it up. But like, I guess, you know, it, probably like anything else, the more success you have, and I’ve been having a little bit more success, it … the cast … comes together a lot easier. You know what I mean?

Yeah. Which is a nice perk. 

Yeah, yeah. Eventually. Ask me in two years when I’m trying to beg someone to be in a movie.

`laughter`

Yeah … particularly, actually, when Rosario pop`ped up` … I was like, “Who else is in this movie?” And I really, honestly want to thank you for putting `William` Sadler in it, because —

Oh, I love Sadler.

I love him in everything.

Yeah. Don’t you love him? Yeah.

No matter what role, how small, he’s fantastic.

Yeah, … I told him … “Look, it’s not a … gigantic role, but it’s a pivotal role,” and … that one scene he and Shia have, it’s, I don’t know if you `noticed`, Bill doesn’t even look at him in the eyes … he has so much trouble acknowledging his failure as a father, and how he loved the … other son more, basically, and I just think Bill is so powerful in that … He’s a really, really powerful actor.

I think he’s great. And it’s the second time he’s done the father-son … thing, with Shia.   

`overlapping` With Shia, yeah. Well, that’s why … I didn’t worry about that, ’cause I …

No, yeah, yeah.

No, but I actually … I thought it would work for us, and then I thought, you know, not many people had seen, uh, that Project Greenlight `movie, The Battle of Shaker Heights` — but even if they had, it doesn’t matter, he was … the right guy for the role.

Yeah. I was kind of like, “Oh, yeah. He’s his dad.”

Exactly.

’Cause he already was.

Yeah, that’s right.

I’m not gonna get off on a Sadler riff any more, but — well, except for, have you seen Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey? ’Cause —

Yeah. Yeah. The Grim Reaper?

He’s just fantastic! …

No, it’s funny. ’Cause you’ve gotta remember, he’s the Grim Reaper. `He’s` fantastic.

Yeah … and I really, Anthony Mackie’s great, I think.

Yeah, Anthony’s great. You know, I wish I had … even more for him, because the time I had him was just so much fun, he’s so alive, and, uh, he’s now, I was talking to him at the premiere … I hadn’t seen him in a while, he was out doing a play, but, I think he’s playing Tupac in a movie.

I read that!

Yeah. Did you read that, now? Yeah. He could be great.

I hope he takes off, because he’s awesome.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s really talented.

… And then, Shia. And I read an interview in which you said, I think, something like he’s the Tom Hanks of the next generation.  

… I think Steven might have said that, and I think he has that Tom Hanks quality. But Shia, to me, has always … this is why I cast him in Disturbia — he’s got that Sean Penn edge, and he’s got like, the — I’m an ’80s-film fanatic — he’s got that John Cusack quality.

Oh, that’s interesting.

To me, it’s sort of like, he is this combination of the independent, angry Sean Penn with this endearing, kind of, ’80s John Cusack, and I just think that’s what … makes Shia so electric. Like he can really turn and be in the dark side, and he can really come around and be like this endearing guy next door, and it’s a real gift. You know? It’s a real gift. 

I’m wondering when it was that you noticed him for the first time as a talent.

I noticed him … to be honest, I remember him in Holes, and I thought, “This guy’s kind of a little bit goofy, and funny,” because I didn’t see Even Stevens or any of that stuff. But … when he came in to read for Disturbia, I didn’t even associate him with the kid who was in Holes. … He’d matured so much, to me. And that’s really … that, to me, was my real discovery of him, I think.

At the reading.

At the reading. And then I sent that DVD over to Steven, ’cause I’d been … trying to cast Disturbia for, like, three months, and I couldn’t find the guy. … And then when he came out, I was so happy, I sent it over and Steven watched the tape and called me the next morning, or, and just said, “That’s the guy. He’s, he’s amazing.” And then we shot for one week. And then they brought him over to meet Michael Bay on Transformers, and … he was prepping that, and that whole thing started.

That’s awesome. … Are you doing the Y thing with him? Am I allowed to ask about that? Y: The Last Man?

Yeah, of course … we’re talking about it … . It’s my job to get the script in good shape first, and we’re getting really close, and we turned it in last week, and … if the timing works out, and he takes a break… . He’d love to do it, I’d love for him to do it … . When I read it, you know, two years ago, this was before I even started Eagle Eye, I thought he’d be a perfect Yorick Brown. … Are you familiar with it?

With the comic?

Yeah, yeah.

I know the premise.

You know the premise?

I know the premise, and I’ve read —

If you get a chance to read the comic … and you can just read the first four books, they come in one — it’s really cool. It’s really good.

Yeah, and the `Brian K.` Vaughn guy is supposed to be just amazing.

He’s really, Brian’s a great guy. Great writer.

… Can you talk about the art of filming, just a really bad-ass car crash?

… You know, I think it’s one of those things where, I’ve always felt, like — first of all, I’ve been in two really serious car accidents.

Seriously? OK …

… But you also want to make sure that you can sort of, like, convey, you know, I don’t know how, and again, you go back to The French Connection, which was so beautifully shot, but I just always feel like, if you care about the characters, and you put the audience in the car with those characters, that the car, the action is going to be that much more emotional, and  … this particular car chase, I had my two lead characters meeting each other for the first time, and then, basically, you know, try to figure out who they are, what’s going on, they don’t trust each other, and then they’re catapulted … and I mean, it was so funny, if you look at the car, on the page, it was probably like 6/8 of a page, that car chase, you know? It just kept expanding … and expanding.

`laughter`

’Cause I felt like it was an important set piece in like, sort of the genre expectations, but at the same time, it just felt right as a filmmaker. But, you know, it’s really complicated, it takes tons and tons of meetings, you know, we were ripping cars in shreds … apart, Brian … Smrz, the second unit director, was very helpful in doing a lot of the cool stuff, too, with me, and just putting the … actors in the right car to drive them, and at the right speeds, and then getting them fast, but … it becomes like a science experiment, because, how do you get the crane to pick up the car? OK, we devised this thing that pulls the crane … I always would say, like, in math class in high school, like, I don’t need to know about physics, I’ll never need to figure out the value of “x,” but when you do a car chase like that, you need to figure out the value of “x.” But it, it was good, and, you know, it’s, it’s extensive prep and, and execution by everyone from the transportation department that finds you the cars that you need, to the special-effects guy who’s pulling the cable, to the other guy who’s blowing the rear end of the car … . It’s all amazing, when people work together to do a job like that. … What you’re seeing is a combination of a lot of great work by a lot of people.

Absolutely. I love that scene, where they, where he gets into the car and they just start screaming at each other …

Isn’t that great?

… for like two minutes.

That’s completely ad-libbed. I basically just gave them the scenario and they both just go. And isn’t that great? … It’s intense, too.

It plays into … what you were saying about the … relationship. And then, the car crash in Disturbia just, was one of those moments …

Well, that was one of those things, too, and that’s a different scenario … . That storytelling point was one moment can change your life. … We’ve  all been in near-accidents or accidents where that one moment almost happens or does happen, and that really — it’s amazing, ’cause the first time we did a test screening, I just remember sitting there, and hearing the entire audience just like, `loud gasp`. You can feel the whole air go out … `and you’re` like, “Oh my, God, that must really work.” But you don’t know that, ’cause it’s just so, what you present, and I’ll never forget that. Like … and then I thought, like, “Did something `go` wrong? Did the film `punk-ass interviewer laughs loudly and obnoxiously, muffling the rest of interviewee’s sentence`?” … Seeing it again a couple times with an audience, it was amazing. But, you know, then I realized all I did was put people in a situation they’d been in before, so they knew exactly what that experience is, of like, we all have that fear of that car pulling out, and then, like, that other car being in front.

I was gonna say, you tend to, or you seem to tend to, so far, gravitate toward kind of the thriller genre, and I’m wondering, is that because that’s what you were raised on? Is that what you kind off watched as a kid?

As a kid, I watched, I loved political thrillers, you know? `I grew up in` the ’70s, and …, the Parallax Views, the French Connections … Three Days of the Condor, but you know, I don’t necessarily think it’s what I gravitate `toward`, but, you know, it all, has a different, um, element, but it’s the characters that I’m attracted to. And, … it’s interesting, because Eagle Eye is a thriller with major action, but you’re right. … it’s not like, “Oh my God, I have to make a thriller.”  … But it just seems, so far, the characters that I’ve been attracted to, it just seems like that’s kind of the genre that it’s sort’ve been falling into. But … one thing, the only genre that would fully scare me … would be a comedy. I don’t think I could make a straight-out comedy.

Really? That’s interesting.

Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I love to watch them. ... And that’s why … Disturbia, to me, was very interesting, because watching it play, like, I remember the first time I saw it play, I was really concerned … I was really concerned that the audience was laughing too much.

Oh, really?

… ’Cause I knew how dark the `rest of it was`. … But `what` I realized … it was comedy based out of … situations that we didn’t say, like, “OK, this is gonna be funny.” It just organically became funny.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

So, you know. But no, I know that’s a good question, but, you know, I would love to do just a straight-on drama. …

And Salton Sea was, was closer to that, I think.

Salton Sea was … well, yeah, I guess, you know, it had to be labeled a thriller, but to me it was … a man’s journey, and … sort of a revenge piece … but it was all, there was a lotta things going on in Salton Sea as a filmmaker … it was almost like therapy … It was a much more, as much of an outrageous movie `as` it was, it was more of like a journey. Like now, I look back now, and I wouldn’t tell ’em this, but I never really thought about, like … who’s gonna see this movie, and who’s this movie for? It never — now, it … bangs around my conscious`ness` a little more … . There’s a responsibility to the people that give you the money.  

 

Read The Current's review of Eagle Eye here.

 


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