Friday, June 4, 2010

Neil Jordan Talks Upcoming Projects

The good folks over at got to sit down with Neil Jordan to talk about his attraction to fantasy fare & his upcoming projects, one of which is the adaption of Neil Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book.' Do you prefer to make fantasy films? Are you more comfortable with fantasy fare?
Neil Jordan: Yeah, I basically am, but I suppose the problem is that I don't do comicstrip things. The fantasy films I do are slightly more complicated than "Spider-Man," or stuff like that. I love making films where the real world and the unreal world intersect, where they clash and intersect and resolve themselves in something slightly unreal.

CS: So now that you've done werewolves, vampires, and water-nymphs, what fantasy creature would you want to do a film on next?

Jordan: I'd love to invent a mythological creature, but there hasn't been one invented since Dracula, really, is there? I'd love to come up with one. I'd love to return to the world of "In the Company of Wolves." It's kind of a delightful thing. Like in "Interview with the Vampire." They're all humanized myths in a strange way, aren't they? They find interesting intersections with humans. Maybe I should do something with angels, but I'm not that sweet! (laughs)

CS: Neither are all angels. Remember "Prophecy"? Or have you read Neil Gaiman's "Murder Mysteries," about the first murder among the angels?

Jordan: Yeah, there are bad angels and good angels.

CS: You're back on for Gaiman's "Graveyard Book" – and that's going to have loads of ghosts and ghouls…

Jordan: And Silas the vampire, and Miss Lupescu the werewolf, and all the graveyard creatures. It's a rather wonderful conception, all these ghosts are terrified of one human being, and normally, it's the total opposite, so we'll be running through the graveyard and all the ghosts will be in a panic, like the forest animals in "Bambi." I think it's quite cool, ghosts terrified by a human being. So we're starting to build in sequences like that.

CS: Do you know what studio it's going to be yet? There's been some re-juggling on that front…

Jordan: When Neil came to me with the book, he wanted to keep it somewhat outside of the studio system, but it's proving difficult, because it's an expensive movie, and movies like that are now made in 3D. We've got a budget, and if we can make it for $40 million, we have the financing, but if it goes over $40 million, then we're in a bit of trouble. Movies like that are very hard to do these days. We were about to do it with Miramax, and Miramax wanted to get into doing larger films, so it was Disney, and we talked to Dick Cook, the head of Disney at that time, and we had it all set up to do that way, with the backing of a large studio, with a large release, and then Miramax collapsed, and then Dick Cook was fired from Disney, so the movie went into a bit of a hiatus. I've written a script, and I've just delivered another draft, so I hope to be starting production in the fall. I've love to start doing it in September. We just don't know who the studio would be at this point. I think Universal is interested in doing it. Actually, there are four different entities that want to do it, and the thing of American distribution is yet to be worked out. Movies are so bloody complicated.

CS: Unlike "Coraline," this one's to be live action, so what are you thinking about with regards to casting?

Jordan: I think you'd need an unknown to play Nobody [the main character otherwise known as Bod]. You'd need three people to play him, but there are some great parts for bigger names, like for Silas or Miss Lupescu.

CS: Would you use Bela Fleck's version of "Danse Macabre"?

Jordan: What is it, a weird waltz version with the banjo? I have to listen to it. Maybe I can use it in the movie. Does Neil Gaiman know about it?

CS: That's actually how it came about, because Neil wrote on his blog that it would be lovely to have a banjo version of it. Bela read it, asked him if he would be interested in him doing one and then he recorded it. (You can hear that here.) And so they used it for the audiobook.

Jordan: Wow, he's very good at that, Neil. He has that Internet life. And the Twittering. Do you Twitter? I don't get it. It's weird to be talking to people you don't know, but I could learn, I suppose.

CS: What's happening with "Heart-Shaped Box"?

Jordan: I did a script. It's got nothing to do with Nirvana, but it quotes the song, and a lot of heavy metal songs in it too. But I've written so many films over the years that haven't been made. I kind of just want to make the ones that I've already written. I did a version of "The Odyssey" called "The Return," with an English producer, and that one I didn't make. I did a version of "The Collector" – you know that William Wyler movie with Terence Stamp? That I haven't made. Maybe I should get around to making them.

CS: How do you divide your time between writing movies and books?

Well, I have my next novel ready, "Mistaken," which I wrote while waiting for "Ondine" to be released. The book will be out in February. It's about somebody who's divided in two. It's about me, basically (laughs), because I'm divided between books and movies. It's kind of a schizophrenic thing, isn't it? But more specifically, it's about a guy who grew up on the north side of Dublin, and he's constantly being mistaken for someone on the south side. These two characters grew up with these marginal social differences between them, because one side of the city is grimy and the other is more middle class, and it becomes a doppelganger thing. The middle class guy on the south side, he becomes a writer, and the north side guy becomes a technician, and goes into video games. And there's a murder. One of them commits a murder. They're identical, and one of them commits a murder on the other's behalf.

I've written several plays. I started out in college in a theater company with Jim Sheridan, but I'm no good at theater. I've just no talent for it. I was asked to direct a short play I'd written some years ago, and it drove me nuts, because I could never settle the image. Everywhere I sat in the theater, the lighting looked different. And of course, I realized it wasn't about an image at all, and that's why I was very bad at it. It's not for me. If you construct a movie, you have to accept the rhythms of something real, whereas I think you have to accept a certain level of artificiality toward the theater.

CS: What about television, since you're now doing "The Borgias"?

Jordan: A lot of directors are getting to do these cable things, aren't they, because there's more intelligence there, isn't there? DreamWorks had a script of mine that I tried to make years ago with Scarlet Johannson and Viggo Mortensen, and Steven Spielberg looked at it again, and he said, "Why don't you try to turn it into a cable series?" So Showtime's picked it up, and that's what I'm doing at present, to air in the spring of 2011. It's about Rodrigo Borgia, who buys his way into Rome and becomes Pope Alexander VI and tries to make the Church a kingdom for his family, and his power led to all these cruelties and torture and scandals, and all this bad stuff happens. It's kind of wonderful, actually -- as far as storytelling is concerned!