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Duncan Jones Explains Why His Sci-Fi Film 'Mute' Is Such A Difficult Movie To Make

by Cory Everett
March 27, 2011 8:05 AM
3 Comments
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Lead Character Won't Speak At All In Film -- Hence The Title



With his sophomore effort "Source Code" set to open Friday, director Duncan Jones is in the midst of some serious press promotion rounds. The filmmaker is currently traveling around the country to introduce advanced screenings of the sci-fi actioneer everywhere from SXSW (where we first caught the film) to last Friday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. After the screening, Jones was asked about the status of his long gestating film "Mute," which was recently announced to be made into a graphic novel. Jones gave a variation on the same answer he's been giving recently, but explained exactly why his future noir is a very difficult film to find financing for, even getting into a few minor spoilers, but as our subhead suggests, the title of the film -- and the semi-known logline -- does tend to give things away a bit.

"I wont belabor the point but 'Mute' is a very difficult sell," he said. "There's two main problems with 'Mute' that make it a difficult film to get made: one it's a science fiction film that doesn't rely on a particular science fiction conceit or idea. It's a film noir that just happens to take place in the future. So for film investors its like, 'Why are we setting this film in the future? Can't we just do it 'now'?' But it's like, 'No, that's not the point.' And secondly, and this one I completely understand. When you're trying to get a film made, especially these days at a budget, and by a budget I mean more than $5 million dollars like we did 'Moon,' you need an actor of a certain level to bring in the financing to make the financiers feel confident the films going to make enough money to make it all back."

Jones has been developing the film for years but in order to get the film made he'll need more than just a studio willing to put up the financing. He'll also need an A-list actor willing to play a risky part that requires him not to speak throughout the entire film. "To find an actor who is willing to put their career on the line, cause they're doing that every time they do a movie, for a main protagonist who doesn't talk at all, is difficult understandably." With the star system in full decline, there are probably only a handful of actors who fit that description, and even then it's not a sure thing. (Even with Tom Cruise attached, Guillermo Del Toro couldn't get "At The Mountains Of Madness" off the ground.) Apparently financiers have shown some interest but Jones isn't interested in compromising his vision. "I'm not so keen to get it made that I'm willing to rewrite 'Mute' for the mute to talk. Although it has been suggested, 'Can't it just be voiceover?' [The answer is] no."

Although there's no word yet on who he'll be collaborating with on the graphic novel or when it will be released, the filmmaker seems determined to see the project realized in at least one medium. "So what we're going to try to do is make it as a graphic novel first, which seems to be the way to get things made these days. And also for those people who are interested in seeing 'Mute,' even if I don't get a chance to make it until I'm in my 80's, at least people will get a chance to see it for themselves in one form. In the meantime I'm going to do another science fiction film anyways." That other film is the aforementioned city-based science fiction film that will allow Jones to "do all the geeky things he would want [from one of those kinds of films].” We can't wait.

"Source Code" is in theaters this Friday.

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More: Films, Duncan Jones, Source Code, Mute

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3 Comments

  • Sam Davis | March 27, 2011 12:52 PMReply

    Mean't to place @Sous Chef Gerard in the body of my comment obviously. My apologies.

  • @Sous Chef Gerard | March 27, 2011 12:51 PMReply

    I don't it that way at all. All hard SF deals with many of the same issues that people deal with today and I think it's an awesome idea to set one of the myriad human dramas (this will undoubtedly have some action/thriller elements in them though) in the future like REAL SF does.

    The most difficult part might be, depending on how far in the future this film is set, getting the audience to connect when they've never before seen anything like what they're looking at on screen. Unfamiliar landmarks, vehicles, styles of dress, etc.

    The studio might see the FX budget and wonder why there aren't space dogfights, aliens, and laser guns, but as Jones said, that isn't the point. The point, I think, is to present moviegoers with a more subtle presentation of a future world. One where the tech, architecture, and science fiction-y elements aren't shoved in their faces. Not made to be the focus.

    If the film is sufficiently atmospheric I think people will start to take notice of all of that stuff in addition to the story being told.

    I hope he gets to make it.

  • Sous Chef Gerard | March 27, 2011 9:05 AMReply

    "It’s a film noir that just happens to take place in the future. So for film investors its like, ‘Why are we setting this film in the future? Can’t we just do it ‘now’?’ But it’s like, ‘No, that’s not the point.’ "

    Unless he explains to the financiers why it must be in the future, then he's being a fool to assume someone is going to give him money for a future tale that could easily be done in the now.

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