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Brian De Palma Q & A: 'Passion,' McAdams vs. Rapace, Sex Tools UPDATED (New Trailer)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 30, 2013 at 9:36AM

Brian De Palma's "Passion," which played the 2012 fall festival circuit and stars Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace caught up in psychosexual mind games, hits theaters August 30. Our TOH! interview with De Palma is below, along with the newly released trailer for the film.
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Brian DePalma
Brian DePalma
AT: And then you get into some bedtime stuff. There's a drawer full of apparatus with some S&M elements.

BDP: That drawer was created by Cornelia Ott, the production designer. And believe me, she had other things for that drawer that I said, "I think that's a little too much." But she carefully arranged all those things in that drawer, and she said "What do you think?" And I said, "Yikes! Okay!" I love the way Noomi picks these things up,"Holy mackerel, what is that?"  

AT: So you didn't intend in the writing for that dynamic to exist?

BDP: Well, it was important about the mask, we had to establish the mask. But all the toys that they use, you gotta hand that to Cornelia.

AT: You're also playing around a lot with the question of what's real and what isn't real, what's imagined and what's dreamed. And you're also playing with split-screen.

BDP: Well, because I get a lot of ideas when I wake up in the middle of the night, just like Noomi does in the beginning of the movie, the whole movie's filled with actions like that. She's constantly waking up and not sure exactly [whether] what came before was a dream or wasn't a dream. And Noomi's playing a clever con game with the audience all the time, because you believe that she is an innocent person, she didn't know what she was doing. "The drugs made me crazy," and you buy it. A lot of the kind of boring police procedural stuff is put into this kind of dream-like state to make it more interesting, and because two people sitting across a table babbling about evidence can be pretty boring.

AT: You shot in Berlin, in some exquisite European architectural settings, like the Frank Gehry bank building.

BDP: Well, we had a great German art director, Cornelia Ott. And we had a lot of time to prepare for the movie. First we were going to set it in London, but then we were going to do the interiors in Germany. But after looking at some of the stuff in Germany that was supposed to be London, I said, "Why don't we just shoot it all in Berlin?" It's an international corporation. So that's what we did, and we had to find particularly interesting locations, which is always something that I'm a stickler for. If it doesn't look good in a photograph, then why is it in your movie? Because a movie's trying to put the camera in a place that's perfect for a particular action taking place. I think about it all the time.

AT: You work again with composer Pino Donaggio, who you haven't worked with since "Raising Cain." The score went in different directions, starting with a comedic tone at the beginning.

BDP: Yeah. Nobody writes those psycho dream things like Pino does, and there's a long section of Noomi's nightmare that has big surprises in it, and he's just the master of that. I mean, we did it in "Carrie," we did it in "Dressed to Kill," we did it in "Raising Cain." And then there's the other music that's very lyrical, especially when Noomi's falling apart, but it's very touching.

AT: What cameras did you use and how many?

BDP:

Well, we had one camera, and we shot on film.

AT: You shot in 35mm? Wow. Nobody does that anymore.

BDP: That's correct. The problem is that they only make digital things from it, and a lot of movies are released digitally.

AT: Are you decrying the death of 35?

BDP: Of course I am, but when we find a cheaper way to put it in the theaters, they're going to do it that way. Plus, we have the big problem with everybody looking at things on smaller screens. You could be in your bed with your iPad watching "Lawrence of Arabia," that's the problem.

AT: So how did you move the Steadicam around in this movie?

BDP: Well, there's only one really big Steadicam shot and that's when Noomi has her breakdown. And I wanted to give her the emotional length to be able to play the emotion, all the way up from coming down the hallway, into the elevator, into the garage.

AT: Now how many takes do you usually do? What would be your average?

BDP: Not a lot, we don't do a lot of takes. We usually tried different things that the girls would try to do, but after I got it I'd sort of look at them and ask, "Is there anything else you want to do?" And they'd either say yes or no, depending on how they felt about the scene.

AT: It's been a while since "Redacted" in 2007. What's your development process with scripts that are coming your way, and the films you want to make?

BDP: Well, it's been a couple of years of getting films that were sort of like "Redacted," that were based on the political situations that were going on at the time, and they were done on video, and using old internet things that I used in "Redacted." I did two of those, but I couldn't get the finance because "Redacted" of course didn't make any money. And then I was adapting another script based on an old RKO movie, a Robert Mitchum RKO movie directed by John Farrow, called "This Kind of Woman." And I couldn't get the rights for it, ultimately. And then this came along. 

AT: And what are you looking for? What is it that you want to do as a filmmaker now, at this stage of your life?

BDP: Every day above ground is a good day. I'm here, there's all these people, they seem to be happy to see me. What more could I ask for?

AT: But you still want to make movies.

BDP: I still have ideas, that's the problem. I still wake up with ideas, and then, you know, William Wyler used to say, "Once your legs go, that's when you got to pack it in." But I still have ideas, so they still evolve themselves into movies. So I don't even know what's going to happen next.

AT: Well, apparently there's a remake of a Burt Reynolds movie "Heat" that you're working on with Natalie Carter, who you seem to enjoy working with.

BDP: Yes. It's an old movie that Burt Reynolds made, based on a William Goldman script, in the late '70s. On the first day on the set, Burt Reynolds slugged the director. He went home, and then the movie sort of got made by God knows who, and it looks that way. It's about an enforcer working Vegas, and his relationship with a very crazy 17-year-old that gets into a lot of trouble. There are certain very unpleasant mobsters. But we moved it all to Nice, and to a different casino town, and we're probably going to shoot it there and in Normandy.

AT: Well you've become something of a European yourself. I remember you used to live on lower 5th Avenue? And you're in Paris now?

BDP: I still live in downtown Manhattan. But I go where the movies go, basically, and I've been making a lot of movies in Europe, but I always wanted to do that, even when I was making big studio pictures. I'm the one that moved "Mission: Impossible" to Europe. It was originally set to be in the Midwest.

AT:  You're raising money overseas, like everyone else these days. That seems to be the way that movies are getting made.

BDP: Even the studios seem to be doing that.

This article is related to: Interviews, Interviews, Interviews , Toronto International Film Festival, Passion, Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace


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