In what turned out to be a banner year for the movies in 2007, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" ended up somewhat overshadowed. As fellow neo-Westerns "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country For Old Men" swept up plaudits and Oscars, the picture, the second by Australian director Andrew Dominik, was plagued by post-production battles and an indifferent release by Warner Bros., which saw it come and go to in theaters fairly quickly in limited release. But by decade's end, many had since rediscovered the picture as one of the finest of the '00s, and as such, Dominik's first film since, crime tale "Killing Them Softly," was one of the most eagerly anticipated pictures of the Cannes Film Festival this year.
Based on the novel "Cogan's Trade" by George V. Higgins, the film is a politically charged thriller about the fall-out when two junkies rob a protected, mob-run poker game, with a top-notch cast including 'Jesse James' star Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn (read our review here). While in Cannes, we caught up with the director to find out about the violence, politics and look of the film.
When you're making a film that wears its political intent right on its sleeve, does that concern you ever as far as getting the film to reach the masses, especially in the States?
Well that's kind of the idea. I wanted to make a cartoon, you know? I'm serious, it’s a cartoony kind of movie. And I don't know how that happened. You know, in the movie [the characters are] going through an economic crisis, and the real world was going through an economic crisis, and everything just started reflecting on everything else like a hall of mirrors. It's kind of a cynical take on things, a sort of godless, faithless universe, and that's not the universe I live in all of the time, but it's a place I visit. That's how it happened. In a cynical world, everything becomes reflects everything else, do you know what I mean? There's a little bit of preaching to the choir going on.
All films have a longer cut at some point. Assembly's always long.
But in this one you had to kill your babies with some of the cast who didn't end up making it.
I'm not a very efficient filmmaker. There's a lot of guys, filmmakers like the Coen Brothers who shoot a whole movie and maybe don't use 12 setups. I'm in awe of people like that, I'm just not that guy. For me, the movie's always evolving as I'm doing it. I throw things in as we shoot, and I take things out as we go. I want to create a whole life and then select the pieces that best sort of describe it later, you know? So there's a lot of wastage when I make a film. This one less then most, but you know.
It feels like some of the actors have had some scenes cut. Sam Shepard's appearance is brief, Garret Dillahunt’s not there at all.
Garrett was a subplot. He worked for a night, he worked for five hours. Everything that Sam shot is in the picture. I had final cut in the picture, it's not like I had to take anything out that I thought should be there. Like I say I’m just not real efficient.