By Edward Davis | The Playlist October 19, 2010 at 8:05AM
We'll fully admit it. The way Focus Features were treating Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn's "The American" — last minute press screenings, very limited press for American journalists — we assumed the company had a dud on their hands and were trying to hide it. They might have thought the same as every pundit seemed surprised when the movie landed at #1 in the box office — even above Robert Rodriguez's "Machete" — on the weekend of September 3 (garnering a very respectable $16.1 million long-day weekend total; the film has grossed $53.3 million worldwide so far).
While slow-moving and languorous — we described it as if Ingmar Bergman had tried to make a redemptive hitman picture — the spare anti-thriller was actually quite absorbing and featured an excellent minimalist and internalized turn from George Clooney. We felt it was even that much more engaging than Corbijn's debut feature film, "Control," which documented the tragic rise and fall of Mancunian post-punk outfit Joy Division/its singer Ian Curtis.
So, yes please, we'd like some more. But does the former rock photographer only have one more film in him? According to an interview in the recent issue of Empire (this particular interview doesn't seem to be online), Corbijn claims his plan is to "only do three films." Evidently, the idea for his next film is a German-set thriller that would star German actor Herbert Grönemeyer, who appeared in Wolfgang Petersen's 1981 movie "Das Boot," but then began focusing on his music career. Since 1978 through 2008, Grönemeyer has released close to two dozen albums and has also written many film scores including "Das Boot" and both of Corbijn's two features so far.
"Then we'll see if there's anything there," Corbijn told Empire alluding to the fact that he might not be dying to make other pictures, and realizing he wouldn't be a "very good fit for 'Spider-Man 25'."
Throughout the interview Corbijn doesn't sound like he thinks he's a natural fit for filmmaking. "No, not at all," he said when asked if he considered it natural for photographers to become filmmakers. "Maybe if you're used to big set-ups, if you do commercials, but that's not how I work. It's a big jump."
The filmmaker is possibly just too self-deprecating. "I'm a very slow developer," he said. "It takes me a long time to realize the potential I have." In our estimation, his potential is just starting to blossom. We're hoping after he does get the Grönemeyer-led thriller off the ground — which won't be easy as he's not a star in the least anymore — he does reconsider, and tries something new. He does clearly realize his sensibilities don't really fit as work-for-hire director; but then that's what we love about him.