Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed Watch: First Trailer For 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Brings Two Comic Book Legends Together Watch: First Trailer For 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Brings Two Comic Book Legends Together Martin Scorsese's List Of 85 Must-See Films Martin Scorsese's List Of 85 Must-See Films The 10 Best & 5 Worst Cannes Film Festival Openers Ever The 10 Best & 5 Worst Cannes Film Festival Openers Ever The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Marrakech ‘12: James Gray Says ‘The Nightingale’ Probably Reverting Back To Original Title ‘Lowlife,’ Hopes To Premiere In Cannes 2013

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist December 5, 2012 at 11:19AM

With James Gray serving on the jury of the Marrakech International Film Festival this year, we were lucky enough to get some time with a director who has, in just four movies, firmly established himself as one of our very favorite filmmakers. There are a couple of further pieces to come from our talk, so articulate and interesting an interviewee he turned out to be (we left his quotes mostly uncut below), but for now, here’s a small sampler of some news that will interest anyone anticipating his next film, a period piece set around Ellis Island, even half as eagerly as we are: it seems “The Nightingale” is probably going to be jettisoned as the film’s title in favor of the original “Lowlife."
7
The Nightingale, James Gray

With James Gray serving on the jury of the Marrakech International Film Festival this year, we were lucky enough to get some time with a director who has, in just four movies, firmly established himself as one of America's finest auteur directors. There are a couple of further pieces to come from our talk, so articulate and interesting an interviewee he turned out to be (we left his quotes mostly uncut below), but for now, here’s a small sampler of some news that will interest anyone anticipating his next film, a dramatic period piece set around Ellis Island, even half as eagerly as we are: it seems his next picture “The Nightingale, starring the impressive cast of Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner, is probably going to be jettisoned as the film’s title in favor of the original “Lowlife."

“It was originally ‘Lowlife’ and is probably going to be called ‘Lowlife,’ ” Gray said. He further clarifies: “It has nothing to do with the Luc Sante book [of a similar name]. What happened was they had classifications for people coming in through Ellis Island. Believe it or not, ‘moron,’ ‘cretin’ all this stuff, they’re technical terms, which seems ridiculous. And you didn’t want to be classified a ‘lowlife,’ -- they also called it ‘liable to become public charge’ -- which meant that you were going to be a ward of the state and they would not allow you into the United States. So I called the movie ‘Lowlife’ and Jim Jarmusch who’s a friend of mine said I should read his friend Luc Sante’s book ‘Low Life’ because I was talking about Luc Sante’s book ‘Evidence,' which is a series of crime photographs." 

"And I remembered it had come out maybe twenty years before and I read it, and it was the wrong time period; it was New York around when Marty Scorsese’s picture takes place, ‘Gangs of New York,' which was about sixty or seventy years before the film I was writing takes place," Gray continued. "But it was still very interesting, I used very little of it, and then I spoke to Luc Sante, who’s brilliant, and he said ‘I don’t want you using the title.’ So I said ‘What do you mean? My movie’s not based on your book and you can’t copyright a title; it’s called ‘Lowlife’ -- it’s not even two words, it’s one.' So the legal department said, ‘No you can’t call it ‘Lowlife’ because you communicated with him in an email. So I said ‘Rght, his email to me said 'I can’t really help you with any of your research and don’t call your movie 'Lowlife.'' That’s hardly a contact with him. And they said, ‘But it is a contact.’ "

"So then it became ‘The Untitled James Gray Movie,’ which is completely awful because unintentionally for legal reasons you sound like a megalomaniac," Gray laughed. "The editing room would call up and it was [mimics sing-song phone-answering voice] ‘Untitled James Gray Movie!’ It was like that for a while, and then there’s a speech that an actress gives in which she says that 'the nightingale sings sweetest when it’s darkest,' and I thought ‘Well, that’s nice, if I can’t call it ‘Lowlife’ I’ll call it that.’ "

"And then everybody else decided they hated that title, and I said, ‘Screw it, let’s just call it ‘Lowlife’ which it’s supposed to be called’ and that’s where we are right now. I wish I could be more detailed than that,” he adds wryly, “but you now know what I know.”

Whatever its title, the movie is now finished. “I finished it last week, saw the first print and got on a plane the next day to come here.” Gray adds that the film is hopefully heading to The Cannes Film Festival in 2013, “if they’ll have me.” 

He goes on to whet our appetites further, saying, “If you like the films that I’ve made, if you do and it’s a big if, then there’s an infinitesimal chance that you won’t like it. Because I’ve screened it for people who both hate and like my films and the response from people who like the films is that it’s my best film.” And that continued confidence is something we're glad to see, because when we spoke to the director in the spring, he had the same feeling as he was heading into post-production at the time.

We certainly can’t wait, but in the meantime, you can check out a full synopsis and some set pics here, and gain our impressions of the Telluride sneak peek here. And as we mentioned, over the next few days we’ll have more from Gray, including some further stories around the origins of the film and the shooting experience, the director's other gestating projects, and his thoughts on contemporary U.S. cinema in general.

This article is related to: Marrakech Film Festival, James Gray, Interview, The Immigrant, The Nightingale, Cannes Film Festival


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates