By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 23, 2014 at 7:17PM
How did you convince Johansson to take this on, especially with the hidden-camera interaction with unsuspecting people? She's smart, but this took someone who was good on their feet.
She has all that. Well, we talked a few time over the years, and she kept a close eye on it. We were orbiting each other before committing to making it together. She was interested in doing it, she felt fascinated by the character, she wanted to make it. I came to NY to meet with her. She knew all the situations of what would be required. After we decided to make the film together and this is how we were going to do it, she was completely up for all of that.
Is she a confident actress?
Yes, very confident. She's like all actors: she's very confident and lacks confidence deeply at the same moment. She has a very strong sense of herself. She's didn't go into this film without understanding why she's doing it. It was not strategic, it was about wanting to work with someone. You have to trust each other. If you don't trust and can't say whatever you think, there's no point in getting out of bed.
You leave the audience trying to figure out what this alien femme fatale is doing. She lures her prey into her sticky web. How did you decide to focus on her POV?
She's a hunter. Our intention was to never to show the alien, what they look like walking around their planet. There's a million eureka moments and that was one of them. They sometimes lead to other eureka moments. It's not like a light bulb goes off. It's a constant examination of a problem and finding a solution to that problem.
Describe how you came up with the images of that inky black alien interior. Does it come to you in the middle of the night?
Part of it comes to me in the middle of the night, yeah. In the book there is a description of where the men are held, it wasn't anything I wanted to dramatize for the film in the same way, because the languages of film are very different. It's not out of thin air. In other words we became very immersed in the problems of how to describe that. It was a big thing to come up with. It's our look at their world, where we create the realm where the alien can be best shown, through a rigorous process of thinking of how to achieve that, while avoiding trope. The only thing we ended up being comfortable and happy with was a black screen, which eliminated everything. Once it was the black screen that best defined without defining at all, in fact, the alien entity, there was an absence of light, of form. The alien entity wasn't about making something evil. With a limited human imagination, the best thing you can do is to evoke the idea of that feeling.
How did you create that set?
We shot them walking into a pool using a lot of smoke and mirrors of a movie set, a reflective floor, a blackout, and a very particular lighting rig. When the men actually sink into the floor, the production designer created a pit so that the floor goes down as you walk down it, then they are submerged. It was a combination of practical effects, and skillful augmentation with computers.
You went from a big budget to a smaller one. Did this take so long because it was tough to finance?
In the end, Film Four and BFI were our main partners, and Scottish Screen. The film I was trying to make was way more expensive than their parts, so were looking for a third partner. That didn't happen. It wasn't until we made the film smaller that the final chunk of what we needed from a third partner was smaller. At that point Silver Reel came on board and wanted to film what we were trying to make. It was a great arrangement here. The people behind the film were behind me. No one was fighting about what we wanted, not wishing we were getting something else. I have never been able to say this about anyone before, they supported me completely and gave me the right to fail.
So you didn't have that on "Sexy Beast" and "Birth"?
They were different circumstances and different people, a different thing entirely.
Glazer hasn't been able to focus on what he'll do next. Let's hope we won't have to wait another ten years.