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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Directors > Feature Interviews K to O > Nick Cave

NICK CAVE

OFFERS HIS PROPOSITION

by Brad Balfour 

Copyright 2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 12, 2006.

Though Nick Cave didn't direct the Australian period drama The Proposition he did write and help shape it. Working closely with the actors such as lead Guy Pearce and Danny Huston, his longtime collaborator director John Hillcoat encouraged Cave to critique their concept of the characters, the Burns brothers. 

Together they gave this trio the multi-faceted hardscrabble qualities that make such memorable characters. Set in Australia's Outback of the 1880s, the brothers Burns are highly sought-after criminals who have their way around the territory, After the rape and murder of a settler family by older brother Arthur (Huston), brother Charlie (Pearce) and younger brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) are caught in a shoot out. Offered a proposition by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone), Charlie and sibling can go free if Charlie finds and kills his older outlaw brother. Otherwise Capt. Stanley who is intent on bringing to them justice, will hang Mikey on Christmas Day, if Charlie fails to comply. 

This is perfect material for Cave who started his career as leader frontman of the Birthday Party the hardedge post punk band equal in power to Public Image Limited or Bauhaus. Once they broke up, he formed the Bad Seeds and further explored the dark desolate realms of music and emotion.  

How did you come to write the script for John Hillcoat? 

I've known him for about twenty years, and for about eighteen of them he's been talking about the Australian western he's going to make and that I would do the music. I've continued to work with him through that eighteen years and eventually he commissioned a script, that got written, which was basically an American western kind of dumped in Australia and we both thought that that was not the sort of thing he wanted to do. And then he went, "Well fuck it, you write it then." So, I did. 

I wrote it very quickly; it took three weeks to write because I refused to invest anymore time in something that I basically knew would never ever get made. After a couple of difficult years he actually got it made. 

Was this story based on any real events? 

No, it was all fake. 

How did the conventions of American westerns influence you in writing the script? 

I think John's heavily influenced by the anti-westerns and revisionist westerns of the '70s McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Peckinpah's stuff. But I think we felt that the average Australian had a different view of their history than the average American. 

I don't think we see things so much in black and white, or good guys and bad guys, or villains and heroes. We have a much more conflicting, ambiguous shame-faced view of our history. I think we basically see it as a history of failure and incompetence. 

What's the source of that shame? 

If you look at a lot of stories like Ned Kelly and stuff like that; the antics they got up to are hilarious and foolish, and you see how kind of doomed they are. And so, our heroes are murky characters. So, we wanted to write a story where you go to a film and expect your radar to focus on who's the one to sympathize with and who's the one you want to see get their comeuppance at the end. This radar is confused throughout and sometimes you feel aligned to one character and then you shift your allegiance to somebody else, and that in the end they are a group of people in a place that they should never be and they're being slowly dismantled by their own folly. 

There is a lot of violent imagery in the movie, and anyone who knows your music would probably be familiar with it, so it wouldn't be that shocking. How did John influence the violent tone of the movie? 

John is very interested in violence. If you see his first and second films, he is certainly interested in the aftermath of violence and where violence takes you. I guess when John does violence he does it fast and brutal and it's ugly and out of the way. Then he deals with the ramifications of that. That's what he's primarily interested in. 

People talk about this film being a violent film, which I find slightly irritating because the stuff that comes out of Hollywood are great ballets of violence. [Hollywood] scripts are being written for the express purpose of just having a whole lot of violence like Tarantino films which I find pretty unwatchable most of the time. So when John deals with violence, I think he deals with it in a realistic way and that it's a fundamental part of the story. It was a violent time and a violent so-called 'civilizing' of the country. 

You've written your scripts pretty quickly, but your music takes much longer. What is the difference four you between those two things? 

To write a song and see it through to the end is really hard work. It's not building a house or bricklaying or anything like that, but for me it's a very difficult process and the hardest part of it is when you're trying to start off a song. I'm sitting alone in my office and I'm trying to think about what I want to write about, and all I am is sort of exhausted by my own tiresome kind of opinions about things, and all of this bullshit that I've got in my head. It's very difficult to get through that and actually call together some kind of a song. 

Whereas when I'm writing a script, when someone says write an Australian western, you don't have to worry about how you feel about anything, or your own ideas about anything. You just sit there and get a few characters; the story has its legs. 

Did you write any of the music you composed for The Proposition while writing the script? 

Yeah, the script has all of the musical cues in it. You know, into the violins and all of that sort of stuff. So, I was writing that as I was writing the script. I think the script is kind of musical. 

You have a double DVD that's coming out Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds -Road To God Knows Where /Live At The Paradiso. Have you looked at them?

No, I never look over my stuff. It just puts me off my game. I'd rather live in a kind of fantasy world that what I do is brilliant, and I don't really ever want to kind of actually see it for what maybe it really is. So I never listen to my music, I never watch myself on TV or, especially, footage of myself live.

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Photo Credits:
#1 2006 Courtesy of First Look Pictures. All rights reserved.
#2 2006 Courtesy of First Look Pictures. All rights reserved.
#3 2006 Courtesy of First Look Pictures. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 12, 2006.

Copyright 2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 12, 2006.