It's all the entertainment you need!








PopEntertainment.com > Features - Directors > Feature Interviews F to J > Curtis Hanson


The director steps into a WOMAN'S WORLD


Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: October 15, 2005.

Veteran director Curtis Hanson loves to confound people. As the Oscar-winning director of L.A. Confidential, who would have thought he would take on a project like 8 Mile – the fictionalized telling of cross-over rapper Eminem's rise to success in the Detroit ghetto. Yet now he again defies expectations of him by doing what might be called a chick flick – In Her Shoes.

Few people expected you to do an In Her Shoes after doing 8 Mile?

Maybe this is my penance for 8 Mile. This time around, I am being hit with this question of [what was I doing making a] "chick flick?" With 8 Mile, the question at that time was all about [my credibility with] "the street" and Eminem. I say the same thing now that I said back then, which is, that I approach [each film] from the point of view of whether not I am interested in it. If I am interested, then [I figure] other people will be. If they are surprised that they're interested and surprised that they respond in the way they do, then so much the better.

Was it a challenge that the characters in In Her Shoes are Jewish?

I decided to make this movie for the same reason that I made my last four movies which is that I responded emotionally – to the characters and to the themes. The fact that these three characters were all women was exciting and different for me. As a movie-goer, it was also exciting because I've loved many female-driven films in the past. I loved the opportunity to work with three actors who would be necessary to get good performances from. The Jewish thing--which I didn't think too much about in the beginning – is part of the attraction of working with novels: you get the life experiences that the novelist had. This was a very personal book for author Jennifer Weiner, and I get to tap into that — so much the better for me!

You played on the way that Cameron Diaz is often type-cast.

Yes, that was part of the excitement for me and for her as well. She very much wanted to do this part and took a significant pay cut to allow us to make it in Philadelphia and in Florida. It was the opportunity to show what's behind that gorgeous image. Cameron is aware of the advantages of looking like she does, but she is also aware of its limitations. One of the wonderful [things] of her as a human being is that she is truly is not motivated by career, which is very unusual for an actor of her stature. Look how seldom she works. This is her first picture since Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and she hasn't done a movie since we've finished shooting over a year ago.

Who was cast first and how did you get Shirley MacLaine?

Cameron was first. When I read the script, I read it knowing that she was interested in doing it. The first thing I did after reading it was to sit down with her and talk about it to see if she was prepared to go the lengths that she would have to go to pull off this part — specifically its dark side: the reprehensible behavior and the selfishness. I wanted to make sure that she could go there without pulling any punches. Toni Collette was next for obvious reasons: she's fantastic. The question with her was "what would the chemistry be like between the two sisters?" and "Would you accept their looks?" The answers came when they both got together. Shirley was the last part of the trio. I considered everybody for that part—known and unknown. But I always thought about Shirley for the simple reason that it's impossible not to. I ended up sitting down with Shirley and being very blunt with her. I told her, "You're big in every way that's wrong for this part. This part is somebody who's quiet and hiding. You have this talent and this personality that you have exploited so well over the decades." As I was saying this Shirley, her eyes just started flashing; I was wondering whether she was feeling complimented or insulted. Ultimately, she knew that she was being challenged. She's somebody who loves a challenge — she's like a horse that wants to test the barriers. Once she felt that she could trust me, she craved this opportunity.

Was there some irony in your head when you chose Cameron to play a Jewish character?

As far as the Jewish thing goes, my thought was, unlike the book, where they are all Jewish, I felt that what would work here would be that her family would half Jewish — that Shirley's daughter was not Jewish. When she died, their father then married woman. He retreated to what might have been easier in the first place. There's that tension going on of people that don't quite fit — because that's what this story is about: two sisters who feel that they don't fit anywhere.

Has anyone else asked about this before?

In Toronto, where we had our junket, they didn't ask me in that way. What they did was comment how unusual it was to see a Hollywood studio movie that actually identified people as being Jewish. I didn't truly think that that was being bold, but they seemed to think that it was.

Did you have any problems with photographers buzzing around Cameron?

It was not a major deal. They are around like gnats with their telephoto lenses. You become aware of them because it's distracting. The last thing that you want on a set is distraction. So, we would park a van a certain way in order to block the view.

Does Cameron Diaz or Toni Collette have any brothers or sisters?

Cameron has a sister who is just getting married.

Did their siblings come to the shooting?

No. It's funny — there's an intimacy in a movie that helps to create the closed environment that can lead to creativity. On the other hand, it can lead to personal problems. That's one of the reasons that relationships have a hard time surviving in that world. It's like working on a political campaign where you're working so hard with people all toward a common goal. Outsiders, no matter how close they are to you, really can't be a part of it. That's what it was like with this movie, which was so much of a personal movie for everyone involved with it.

Do you have any siblings?

I have brother, so there's that connection with the film. But this movie is about friendship as much as it is about siblings. It is certainly about the yearning for family that we can all share and about a yearning for connection, which we all share. The larger issue is self-esteem and "what am I doing with my life?"

Some directors write original screenplays while other write adapted ones. What kind of director do you prefer to be?

I do both. I have always written and will always write. But I also enjoy working with other people's material, particularly working from books because I love the life experience that a novelist puts into a book. If I was limited to my experiences, my filmography would be very skimpy [laughs].

Is that why directors end up making movies about making movies?

It could be. Staying interested does keep one's creativity charged. For example, Shirley MacLaine is somebody who is interesting because she is very interested. At the drop of a hat, she can give her opinion about a wide range of subjects. As they get older, people tend to become narrower in their scope of interests. For filmmakers, it's a little bit more complicated than that because there was a time when filmmakers were able to have longer, richer careers than they seem to be having today. So many filmmakers that I loved growing up as a film fan, made their best movies later in life—filmmakers like [Alfred] Hitchcock, [John] Ford, and [Jean] Renoir. I think part of that is because they were part of a system that allowed them to mix it up. Howard Hawks could make a comedy – His Girl Friday – and then turn around and make Red River and then make To Have and Have Not or The Big Sleep. Today, filmmakers are so encouraged in every way to do what they did before if they were fortunate enough to do it successfully. The results are less good because one becomes an imitation of oneself. And it's easier to raise money if you say, "Look, I'm doing what I did successfully over here."

Clint Eastwood is a good example.

Clint Eastwood is a great example. To me, he is the exception that, in fact, proves the rule. What he has done brilliantly is that he has used his movie-star cache to allow himself the opportunity as a director to explore all sorts of things. The results are what they are. Here is a guy who is in his 70's and has made two pictures nearly back-to-back that are one of the best pictures he has ever made. If there was ever a role model to aspire to in contemporary filmmaking, it would be Clint Eastwood. I think everybody would like to mix it up a bit. Hitchcock is the only one who, in a premeditated way, set out to define himself through a genre. He not only brilliantly executed his movies, but brilliantly achieved a marketing thing with his persona. Most people want to have variety in their work just like actors do. When I felt like I had an opportunity — and the opportunity was created by having financial success with The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The River Wild — I very deliberately, in the most premeditated way you can imagine, said, "Okay, I've got a chance to do something that I want to do as opposed to just trying to get a picture that they want to do." In making L.A. Confidential, I felt like I was spending my poker chips. When it was done, I would have made a movie that I wanted to make and then I would go back to the struggle. What happened, to my surprise, is that I still have some more poker chips so that I could make another one.

Both Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects and your L.A. Confidential dealt with an ensemble of seedy but interesting characters and criminals; yet each takes a very different approach. Did you feel that way as well?

The themes and the feel of the two movies are very different; I was very aware of The Usual Suspects because of Kevin Spacey being in it [as well].  But the movie audiences felt one thing very similar: they felt like they were allowed to be smart. They were engaged with the movies in a thinking way. Most movies treat people like they're idiots because they go for the lowest common denominator. Both of these movies flattered the audience by treating them as though they were smart.

Despite the fact that both movies were acted predominantly by men, women still related to them.

Women related very much to L.A. Confidential because there is a romantic thing to the picture and Kim Basinger's character is the emotional center of the movie. She's the one character who knows the truth about herself and can see the truth in the other guys.

Why do you work with different actors in every film?

That's not deliberate. I love actors and I've had some really great collaboration with actors who I would jump at the opportunity to work again with. But, I try not to let that influence me in the casting process. I really try to go "Okay, who's the one who can capture the essence of this character?" A lot of filmmakers, like Clint Eastwood, have this family who goes from movie to movie. I try to cast my department heads specifically for the movie that we're going to make much the way that I would cast an actor.

Is your range of films a conscious choice , so nobody can pin a label on you?

I do like it. I don't consciously make choices based on the fact of being unlabeled, but I do like to mix it up. I like to do things that take me into a different world from one movie to another. That is deliberate.

Directors are like entrepreneurs starting a new venture with each film. That keeps them fresh and in touch with what's going on. Does that make you feel younger?

Yes. What I actually have tried to do with myself is be my own benevolent studio head that’s looking after myself. I've tried to look at myself as somebody under contract. You are plunging into something with all your energy and focus—and that definitely is like a rebirth. It keeps you vital. You are having a unique opportunity to interact with wonderfully creative people.

What is your next project?

What's next is a movie called Lucky You. It takes place in the world of professional poker-playing. It's a relationship story that thematically deals with how the skills for a card player are the opposite skills that you need for human life. It stars Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, and Robert Duvall.

 Email us        Let us know what you think.

Features        Return to the features page

dmindbanner.gif (10017 bytes)

Photo Credits:
#1 © 2005.  Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2005.  Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2005.  Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.  All rights reserved.
#4 © 2005.  Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.  All rights reserved.
#5 © 2005.  Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.  All rights reserved.
#6 © 2005.  Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.  All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: October 15, 2005.



Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: October 15, 2005.