After "Animal Kingdom" turned Australian filmmaker David Michôd into the realm of hot director du jour--as well as boosting the careers of Joel Edgerton and supporting actress Oscar nominee Jackie Weaver--he jumped into the Hollywood vortex for a year or two. He took meetings. He read scripts. And suddenly one day he told his agents at UTA: "I want to stop reading, I'm not getting any work done."
He was ready to write again. Independently. And go back to a script he had written before "Animal Kingdom." But in a rush of writing, Michôd found that he was channeling a sort of rage about what was going on in the world--about the 1% protecting their wealth while ignoring climate change--among other things. When he emerged, Michôd was ready to finance this elemental dystopian road western. He turned to one of the Hollywood people he had met, Lava Bear's David Linde, to help him assemble the pieces of his indie movie. "The Rover" ended up at Cannes as a midnight movie. And opens stateside June 13.
In our interview, we talk about why he wanted to work with veteran actor's actor Guy Pearce, as well as Rob Pattinson, who is a revelation in this movie. (We start out on video; the rest of our interview is transcribed below. Check out Pattinson's Indiewire interview.)
You drop us quickly into the action when Guy Pearce's character discovers that his car has been stolen and takes off in pursuit. We figure out that he's not someone to be trifled with, but you parse out details about him over the course of the movie, saving your big reveal until the end.
I didn't have access to Guy until a couple days before shooting. We both discovered very quickly that this character that I had written and that he had agreed to play was probably going to end up like a more monstrous creature than either of us had previously anticipated.
Guy makes you like him despite how cruel he is.
One reason I wrote it for Guy is he's such a master at taking a cold stillness and filling it with not only detail but with clear moments of emotional fragility, which is what the character needed. Otherwise he's just some loathsome guy doing loathsome things.
Also over the course of the film we tease out what are the crucial elements of his backstory, but on a broader more macro level, as crazy and unsettling as it sounds, his character was an embodiment of me when I was writing the film, and writing his character. I felt like I was channeling my feelings of anger and despair, all this post financial crisis stuff, bankers being allowed to get away with the rape and pillage of the middle class with disregard for the challenges of climate change, protecting the things that actually nurture us, manifesting in me an unsustainable anger and despair.
When did you first write the story?
The first draft of my first conversations when Joel Edgerton and I were knocking out the basic story took place in 2007, before I made "Animal Kingdom." We were writing for his brother Nash to direct. It was an action thing with cars in the desert. It was not until after "Animal Kingdom" when I was revisiting it for myself, that suddenly it was 20 years in the future. It was me imagining a world that is an extension of the world today.
Are Australia's policies on climate change as regressive as ours? You have an extreme climate.
We have the most repugnantly reactionary prime minister we have ever had at the moment, he's a declared nonbeliever. It fills you with despair. It has been said that this is the greatest moral challenge of our time, we today have to make decisions and sacrifices for the benefit of future generations. Apparently we are not willing to make those sacrifices.