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Jonathan Demme On Future Projects 'Old Fires,' 'Zeitoun' And 'This House We Live In'

Photo of Jessica Kiang By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist December 29, 2012 at 12:25PM

During the Marrakech Film Festival earlier this month we had a brief chat with director Jonathan Demme ("Stop Making Sense," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Rachel Getting Married," "Neil Young Journeys," etc), who was in town to give one of the festival’s Masterclasses (Darren Aronofsky was among the other filmmakers to give one, you can read our coverage of his masterclass here). The first thing that struck us about Demme, however, was just how enthusiastic of a cinepile the veteran director is -- it’s unusual to come across a person being so honored who is actually spending most of his time at the festival watching the films.

Jonathan Demme
It sounds like a very juicy central role - have you anyone in mind for it?
No one specific yet, but it’s a great part. There are many great parts, but first we’re getting the script finished and then we have a very alluring list of candidates.

How about “Zeitoun,” based on the Dave Eggers novel?
I’ve been working on that for a couple of years as an animated film. It’s one that we have had difficulty getting development money for, and therefore we’ve taken the path of developing it ourselves, which means that we do it when we’re not working on paying things. But there’s an amazing animator named Charlie Griak from Minneapolis who’s developed a tremendous amount of extraordinary imagery based on the script that I’ve been writing, and so we continue to work on that and hopefully at some point it will all come together.

You’re also slated to produce a film called “Song One” with Anne Hathaway?
Well, I’m executive producing it, it’s written and directed by Kate Barker, a fantastic young filmmaker of short films prior to this. And it’s gonna be shot sometime next year and yes, it will star Anne Hathaway. It was kind of a wonderful thing because I was told by Anne and her partner Adam Shulman that they were interested in producing low-budget movies together, and I said “I know a really good script for you.” And Adam called back [immediately] and said “we’d love to produce this and by the way Annie would love to be in it, do you think Kate would consider her?”

That’s kind of a dream for a first-time feature director, especially considering next year it may well be “Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway”
I wouldn't be surprised -- just from what one sees in the trailer [for "Les Miserables"]. She’s a genius, she has the pipes... she’s a brilliant human being. 

At this stage, you’ve shot so many concert movies and music videos that the musical aspect of your back catalogue almost matches the narrative. Can you tell us a little of your philosophy for shooting performance films?
Nothing beats a live performance. Nothing. If I film guys [performing live] and do really nice shots I think people might look at it and go “oh wow, I wish I’d been there” and I think that’s what concert films are up against -- to somehow make the viewer NOT find themselves saying “I wish I had been there,” you want them saying “I’m thrilled to be here watching your movie.” But we [the filmmakers] can’t win [against the performance]. But we try our hardest to make films that at least beat the “wish I’d been there” syndrome. That’s why I never show audience shots. What you’re seeing on screen is for you, moviegoer.

Incidentally, some of the Marrakech films Demme gave his vociferous approval of were: “The Attackreviewed here, Moroccan film “Horses of God,” which we did not catch up with yet, and “Mushrooming,” an Estonian film reviewed here.

This article is related to: Jonathan Demme, Marrakech Film Festival