Two brothers. One is a cop. The other is a gangster just
getting out of an extended stay in jail and now sliding back into
his old ways. That's going to make for some uncomfortable
family holiday dinners.
The movie also co-stars terrific actors such as Zoe Saldana, Mila
Kunis, Marion Cotillard, James Caan and Lili Taylor.
The film is based on a true story which took place in France in the
1980s. Writer/director Guillaume Cantet first heard the story
when working as an actor on a 2008 French film based upon the story
called Les liens du sang.
Canet was fascinated by the story and decided to adapt it to the US
gangster milieu. Six years later, his
drama is finally treading the mean streets of Gotham with an
The period of time and how we tried our best to be authentic,
that was one of the important things for me. [I wanted] to do
homage to the cinema to the 70s American independents, because I
have always been a huge fan. It was very important to me to try
to do our best in making a movie as if it was a movie from this
time. I am talking about the realism and not the caricature. Try
to be as realistic as we could be. The production designer, the
lights and how we filmed the movie. I wanted to have this washed
out effect with grain on the image. That was really important to
me. For the music, I was listening to a lot of music from that
time and it inspired me a lot. It gave me all the ingredients to
write the script. Most of the music in the soundtrack was the
music I was listening to while writing the film.
was it like working with a legend like James Caan?
I think that's how we had to address him. (laughs) It was
really exhilarating for me. Needless to say, I grew up a great
fan of James as a man, and James as an actor. It can be
intimidating working with someone who you have such a history
with from afar, but I found the experience of working with him
very easy. He was very accessible. He liked to take over the
set, but Guillaume did a good job keeping him in line. I think
we ended up having a really good time!
Guillaume, what was it about the original French film that you
thought would translate to an American setting?
I originally read the French script as an actor. I did the
movie, and while I was shooting it I met the two actual
brothers. Those two guys were so interesting. Their story was
beyond the script and what I was shooting in the original film.
Years after I shot the original French film, I came back to this
story. I had always pictured it in the 70s in New York - I don't
know why - but I couldn't stop thinking about it. That is why I
knew I had to make it and I had to direct it.
the film deals with a lot of themes regarding the brotherly bond
and also about redemption in some ways. Were those elements that
attracted you to the project?
No doubt about it. I have two brothers, so I identified with the
sibling rivalry and the theme of personal identity as it relates
to our close family. How the roles that we play in our family
when we are younger often don't seem to change much as we grow
and become adults. How frustrating and gratifying it is. You can
be really grounded when you know the same things are expected
from you from your family year after year. At the same time, it
can be infuriating when you're trying to break out from
that. Also, Guillaume has an energy and passion that is rare and
also magnetic. When he begins to talk about the passion of the
film, it's hard not to be enthused about the project!
Canet, was it difficult to make sure that audiences still
connected with Chris, although he did some terrible things?
It was very important to me that Chris would be charismatic
enough and sympathetic enough. This guy is someone you can
really like, because he has these charming and nice and funny
parts of himself. Billy was saying in the film that he was his
hero. It was because he was looking at his brother as someone
great. Chris is a complex character, because you can be very
charmed by him, while on the other hand, he is someone terrible.
That is why I thought Clive would be very interesting in this
role. He is charismatic, while at the same time [he] can look
very terrifying. It was the key part of the film. If this guy
was not someone you can like, there would be no film. Frank is
stuck with the idea that his brother can be someone good. As the
audience you have to understand that.
Crudup, I liked how you played the character of Frank. He could
have easily been a hothead, but you underplayed the part, which
I think worked better. Did you ever feel that you wanted to let
go and just hit someone? It felt like you had pent-up anger and
could explode at any moment.
Well, thank you for that comment and observation. That was
really drawn up specifically in the script. The way Guillaume
spoke about Frank from the beginning was someone who had a lot
of sensitivity and vulnerability, but had been so oppressed by
his family and his family's idea about how he should be. He had
a lot of built-up resentment and disappointment in his family.
He tried his best to live with some moral authority in the world
and was somehow seen as the black sheep of the family for doing
good. It seemed so perverse. I think Guillaume was really shrewd
in maintaining the undercurrent of Frank's sadness and
frustration. I did get a chance when Clive and I had a little
wrestling scene to let out some of the aggression, so I wasn't
pent up completely for the entire experience. But I think that
was part of the character study.
were in Frank's position, do you think you could turn in your
brother? Do you think you could ever forgive him?
Wow, that is a really incredible question. The fact of the
matter is that one of the strongest aspects of the way that this
family relates to each other is through silence. Years and years
have gone by without people confronting the authentic story of
their family. This creates an enormous tension and crisis
between Frank and his brother. Therefore, I think that is added
to the complications of Frank being able to make the decision to
save his brother or to let him rot in jail. Me and my brothers
are not like that at all, so I can't think of a comparable
situation. But there's no question that when it comes to my
brothers, there is almost nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for
them. You sacrifice all of yourself for your family. I think
Frank is stuck in a really complicated situation. We find in the
end that it's really difficult to find a way out.
evocation of 1970s NYC. I was a kid there and then and it seemed
very authentic to me. Was there a reason why you felt the film
had to be set in the 70s? Was it just that you wanted to honor
the films of that era? Or could it have taken place today?
Thank you so much. It was for two reasons. The first is because
the real story happened in the 80s in France. As everyone knows
France is always ten years behind the US, so I decided to place
the movie in the 70s. The second reason is I am a huge 70s movie
fan so I was passionate about the idea of placing the movie in
that period. When you see the film and that story, I cant
imagine that story placed right now. Especially because of all
the technology today. Communication is not the same today as it
was then. There is no interruption in communication today as
there was then. It wouldn't have been the same film for sure.
was awesome in his portrayal. Glad to see him returning. He
stole the spotlight for me. Congrats.
Well thanks, Mom. (smiles)
Canet, the soundtrack seemed very deliberately chosen. Were you
heavily involved in the choice of music?
Yes, music is really important to me. I always write my scripts
and listen to music at the same time because music gives me the
reason and emotion – everything I need to write a scene. When I
was writing this script, I was listening to some music from this
period of time. All of the classic songs. It helped me to put
myself in that time period. I've always been a huge fan of that
period and each time I listened to that kind of music, it made
me feel like I was living in that period. So all the music that
I chose was very important, because I didn't want all of the
music to be well known. I like as an audience watching a movie
listening to a great song that I know, but I also like to
discover a song I didn't know. I tried to find some music that
we don't all know. There are some songs we all know really well,
but there were some others that I wanted to supply the audience