James Gray’s upcoming, beautiful period-piece film “The Immigrant” has a stellar cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Renner. Set in 1920s New York with émigrés coming off the boat to America through Ellis Island, Phoenix plays a manipulative pimp, Cotillard is a Polish migrant coming to the U.S. for a better life and Renner portrays a magician who crosses paths with both these characters.
In case you’re wondering, Gray didn’t think to switch around the lead male roles, but he did talk about what that could mean to the movie. “There was never an issue about who would play what — but you could make an extremely interesting film with the opposite casting,” he told EW this week. “The issue would be then you would have to focus on different aspects of their personalities. With Jeremy, I think the pimp would be overt and direct, and with Joaquin as Orlando [Renner’s character], you would have to find the sweetness. Joaquin is a very sweet person in real life, but as an actor, he projects real danger, which by the way, is great. But it’s not the light of hope. All of sudden, Joaquin’s Mr. Brooding comes in, so it would be very interesting.”
Gray also spoke briefly about his science-fiction project (working title “Ad Astra”). In our recent interview, Gray said the script wasn’t quite yet there, but he also elaborated on tone and mood with the magazine. “It’s less science-fiction-y and much more a science-backed movie almost. It’s almost like a ‘Heart of Darkness’ in space kind of thing. And it would be using a realistic approach. Not like ‘Gravity,’ which I admire by the way, but it would be like Apollo 11 footage, directed that way. That’s the ambition I have for it.”
If you want to take a look at some of the flavor of Jeremy Renner’s charming and sweet character, EW has a new clip from the film where Orlando the magician performs for immigrants coming through Ellis Island. Check out the clip below. “The Immigrant” opens in limited release on May 16th.