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James Gray On 'The Immigrant,' 'The Gray Man,' 'The Lost City Of Z' And More

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist June 3, 2013 at 1:15PM

Last week, we ran an excerpt from our Cannes Film Festival interview with director James Gray in which he spoke at length about his upcoming sci-fi project. But of course the reason he was there, and the reason we were talking at all, was to present his new film, “The Immigrant,” which premiered in competition and stars Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner (you can read our review here).
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James Gray Brad Pitt The Gray Man
With Brad Pitt recently leaving your gestating “The Gray Man,” what’s the status on that project now?
There may be another actor who comes on board but Brad Pitt’s exiting certainly has slowed the train a bit. But there might be a way to get that done with someone else. 


"I think that with globalization and more people making films, I think we’re gonna see great cinema happen. So I have a perverse kind of optimism at the same time as I’m pessimistic."
And how about “The Lost City of Z”? When we spoke last you were hoping to remount that.
I would love to, I have people who are willing to make the film, I have the money to make it; I don’t have an actor. Because its very specific -- it’s a British man, mid-40s and that’s hard to pair up with the budget that I need. I have people that want to make it, I just have to get the actor. It’s certainly a dream of mine to make the film. I think it’s the best script I’ve written. But the size of it is huge, the scale.

Also when we last spoke, we talked a bit about the “disappearing middle” in U.S. filmmaking terms, and how not enough people were talking about that…
And you know what? I was wrong. In 2009, A.O. Scott wrote an article about exactly what I was talking about, and I was so embarrassed, because I was wrong.

Well, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and I think you were more talking about the lack of a wider discourse around this issue.
… but I was blown away because I was sent a piece which he wrote which was not only correct but prescient and it was about the disappearance of the middle and how Paramount Vantage went away and it was very interesting for me to read all of that. And then there were a bunch of articles right around the same time that we talked from David Thomson, David Denby

Yes, it felt kind of zeitgeisty all right.
I got a huge number of emails about it.

In fact I was wondering if since then, with people like Soderbergh talking publicly on these same issues, do you find that heartening?
Yes, Steve Soderbergh talked about it at length, I saw that… I don’t know if I would call it heartening. What I would say is that it’s like the first step in maybe some kind of movement, but we’ve so far to go, because it demands a kind of sea change in the economic structure of the movies. And all of the intelligent writing by our best critics, thinkers -- and filmmakers in the case of Steven Soderbergh -- can’t change the fundamentals. What has to happen is there has to be a kind of a break in how much it costs to market and distribute the film -- that’s what has to change. And Soderbergh talks about that at length. And until that changes it’s very difficult to see a way through.

Until that changes you think we’re going to continue to see a kind of brain drain towards TV?
There has been a huge brain drain towards TV -- it’s so good now…But you know by the same token I’m not right, because when I was on the jury in Cannes, this was 2009, I saw a lot of really good movies. They may not have been American and they may not have had scale, but they were really good. I mean, Andrea Arnold is a really talented director, she’s great. And the Haneke movie “White Ribbonthat was great, the Audiard I saw, and I saw this beautiful Palestinian film which got no awards, which pisses me off it was called “The Time That Remains” by Elia Suleiman.

So there is a lot going on, and I think that with globalization and more people making films, I think we’re gonna see great cinema happen. So I have a perverse kind of optimism at the same time as I’m pessimistic.

Perhaps Cannes is a good place to find some optimism?
Yes, Cannes is the place where you have to see that kind of film. Something with at least some degree of challenge has to be shown.

"The Immigrant" will be released by The Weinstein Company. A date has not yet been set.

This article is related to: James Gray, Cannes Film Festival, The Gray Man, Interviews, Interview, The Immigrant


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