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Feature Interviews U to Z > Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock,
Sigourney Weaver and Douglas McGrath
TOBY JONES, SANDRA
BULLOCK, SIGOURNEY WEAVER AND DOUGLAS McGRATH
LIVING IN INFAMY
BY JAY S. JACOBS
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
October 13, 2006.
Imagine you have spent years of your life and incredible effort to put
together a movie script. You finally get it finished, get interest for the
sale of the movie and even get an all-star cast including Sandra Bullock,
Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig, Hope Davis and Isabella
Rossellini. You discover a mostly unknown actor named Toby Jones – a Brit
who is best known as Dobby the Elf in the Harry Potter movies in
the US – who is absolutely perfect for your lead.
Then, just as you’re about to get the movie started, you find out that
someone else is doing another film on the exact same subject. It’s not
like you are doing a cheesy movie about meteors headed towards Earth or
capsized ocean liners – this is an art film about one of the most famous
books of the 20th Century and the talented genius who was both
made and destroyed by it.
(Nicholas Nickleby, Emma, Bullets over Broadway) had finally gotten
his dream project about 50s literati Truman Capote red-lighted when he
found out that writer Dan Futterman had also written a screenplay about
the flamboyant author. Not only that, but it was about the same period of
Capote’s life, the time when the author left his New York nightlife behind
to go the Kansas to write his masterpiece In Cold Blood with his
good friend, author Nelle Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird). Then
the other movie was released first and won Oscar buzz – including a Best
Actor award for star Philip Seymour Hoffman.This is what happened to Douglas McGrath. The respected writer/director
All that could be done is wait your turn and hope there is enough interest
in the story to support two varied versions of the story. Infamous
is based on an oral history of Capote in which George Plimpton – the famed
late author (Paper Lion) and editor (The
interviewed the people in Capote’s life – a book with the tongue-twisting
title Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances
and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career.
year later, Infamous is finally ready for release. The studio and
director decided to hold it back to try and stem the comparisons.
Infamous is significantly different from Capote, an interesting
alternate twist on the story that is funnier, more flamboyant and more
emotional than the former film.
few days before the movie’s opening, stars Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock,
Sigourney Weaver and writer/director Douglas McGrath sat down with us at
the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in
to talk about Infamous.
When you’re playing
real people, how much does it matter that you look and act the way they
I’ve always thought
that our film is as much about biography as it is about one man. It’s
based on the Plimpton book, which is so much questioning the form of
biography in the way it’s laid out. It’s mis-rememberings and
disagreements. It suggests that in some way you get a glimpse of a person
in the ellipses between things, rather than people are one thing and one
thing only. Somewhere, all personalities are contradictory. As an actor,
it’s very useful, because in a way it allows you much more room to
interpret. I’ve always thought that a biography is fantastic for an
actor, because it allows you many more choices than a sort of
straight-forward biography. Anyway, it’s about a guy learning to write a
new kind of book. He’s taught by his subject that he’s not writing the
book the right way. (chuckles) The version of himself that he
tells the world is cracked open by his subject. I’ve always felt it’s so
clever – Doug’s script – because I think it’s about biography as well.
[I] have months and months and months to do my job of research in the
things that I came up with. You came up with little and you came up with
massive jewels. I don’t ever confess to play Nelle Harper Lee. I’m playing
a culmination of all that people claimed were facts, [things] that I felt
were true compared to what other people had said. If two or more people
said something about her that knew her, I went okay, this seems [right].
She had an incredible sense of humor. I heard that once, I’ve heard that
several times. Her accent… I know people from Alabama because my dad and
his whole side is from
Alabama. I have relatives outside of
Monroeville, which is
very different accent-wise than
Very different at the time when she was raised than it was now. How she
stood. That she was an incredible golfer. All these things. How she held
her cigarette. How she got her hair cut at the barber. You just piece
these things together with the help of an incredible person in wardrobe.
Lighting, make-up and making your face and body go in a certain way take
it right back to what Doug wrote. You have to throw that out of the window
and rely on the words. We’re playing the essence of her. Catherine Keener
and I were laughing, its taken two of us to play Nelle Harper Lee and we
probably still haven’t scratched the surface of who this extraordinary
woman is. Two people so far have written extraordinary roles – very
different – about this woman who has affected many people’s lives. It all
went back to the words. The beauty of it is I kept going back to the
script. There is not one word that isn’t supposed to be here… that doesn’t
have great meaning later on down the line in the film. How often do you
get to be part of a picture like that? Actors, we love to ad lib and go
off. There’s no need, you stay right there with what’s said because it
affects everyone else in the greater story.
I think a
lot of it is the script. The script is so eloquent about what’s going on
outside and inside the character. Even if – as I did – you play a tiny
little screen role. Actually, this might be a more interesting question
for Toby, because there was so little I could do about Babe. She was so
private. I did meet with her daughter and read some books. But, really,
I played the person that’s in the script.
Was there something
that you read or something you listened to that sort of gave you a window
to the character?
The first thing I remember… I’m shamefully ignorant of Truman Capote. I
knew the name. The name is a romantic name that we don’t sort of get in
the UK. We don’t get people called Truman. So, I remember him being sort
of an exotic figure. I remember footage of him at Studio 54 in his sort of
later, bloated years. I remember reading the script thinking, ah this is
just great. It’s a fantastic script, sort of a memento of a thriller. And
I didn’t know anything about In Cold Blood or anything. Then I
remember they sent me the Maysles brothers. There’s a little half-hour
Maysles brothers’ documentary (called A Visit with Truman Capote
a/k/a With Love from Truman – 1966) which follows Truman on a
promotional tour for In Cold Blood. It’s virtually exactly the
right period. It’s about the only bit of footage that I’ve seen where you
see him walking further than the wings to the chat show chair. You see him
walking in the Hamptons. You see him drinking too much in the Hamptons.
You see him pulling out of a bag letters from Perry, which seems a
foolhardy thing to do in an interview. Suddenly, as an actor, you can
project chinks in the Truman mask through his response to these letters. I
found this documentary really the most fascinating document. I sort of had
it on a continual loop in the trailer because the panic of playing someone
so remote in a way, it needs constant sort of gardening. That was the
thing I relied on more than anything else.
You want to find all those clues and then you’re grappling for things here
and there. Stuff at the New York Public Library… her notes versus his
notes – that jewel but that doesn’t give you what you’re talking about. I
looked at it as: what choices didn’t she make? Why did she choose to live
her life that way? You go all the way back to her father and her
upbringing and that environment. What kind of environment did she grow up
in to create this extraordinarily? [It] seems she knows exactly who she
is, and she rises above. Who doesn’t go towards fame? Who doesn’t go
towards the accolades? [Harper Lee] shuns them completely. You have to
look at that. You have to then personalize it. You can’t. Each piece was
like a golden kernel but in the end it just comes back to the word. How do
you make it alive? You have to personalize it. What is it about myself
that I can identify with that person? I’ll never be Nelle Harper Lee and I
don’t ever profess to playing her completely. But, I am playing a human
being that I admire a great, great deal. Who’s very private and would
never ever promote or sell anything of value to her including the reason
why she and Truman cease to be friends after a while.
I want to say something about that. I love what
was saying. A lot of guided us about Nelle Harper Lee were the choices she
didn’t make. When she couldn't write something that she liked as much as
To Kill a Mockingbird, she didn’t publish it. She could have sold
her second novel [for] you could only imagine for how much money, at any
point. In fact, as the years went on she could have gotten more and more
for it. She could have made all kinds of money doing all kinds of things.
She didn’t. That told us a lot about her. That told how centered she was.
You compare her to Truman, who when he couldn’t write Answered Prayers,
he starts publishing excerpts from it. He’s on TV talking about it all the
time and making a terrible spectacle of himself. The real guide for us
about Nelle… the best guide… is To Kill a Mockingbird. You think,
what person could have written that book, with that kind of humanity in
it, that kind of wit in it? It’s very funny. I read it several times
during the writing of this because I felt it was the best way I could get
at her personality and her style of speech. It’s like detective work in a
way, because there are some hints in the works and you just have to use
your brain. If she wrote that, she must be this way. She wouldn’t do that,
she must be this way.
One thing that
Sandy did was a really important part of the movie. [It] seems
really small, but the effect of it is so strong. The biggest speeches she
has in the movie are the testimonials – the interviews that she does to
the camera. In a kind of berserk or cruel decision on our part we decided
to shoot those first. That was her first day. As you know, having seen the
film, if the film works for you its in large part because of what
Sandy says at the end
of the movie. So it was just like, okay, you’ll be carrying the whole
picture on your shoulders. Start day one… let’s get rolling. She came in
with this fantastic idea. She said, “I’ve been thinking about it and I
don’t think Nelle should be too comfortable in front of the camera.” I
felt, oh please, don’t have some wacky idea about having your back to the
camera, wear a bag over your head or something. I’m excited to have you in
the movie. She said, “The other people look if you’re the lens. They look
right at it because Babe Paley and everybody else – they’re pretty
confident. They’re used to being photographed and being seen.”
urge you to watch her performance again and just look at this aspect of
it. Most of the time, she just dartingly looks at the camera lens. The
rest, she modestly directs to the side. The places where she chooses to
look at the camera lenses; it is the exact right place every time, because
she’s saying something that is important for her to connect with you with.
The one that always gets me is in that first long testimonial, because by
the end she gets a little, but not much, better about looking at the
camera. When she’s telling about the Christmas pageant and she says, “They
said they’d be by the cannon in the courthouse square. We’re walking
toward the cannon and then we got to the cannon and I could see him
straining to see them.” Then she takes this beautiful pause. She hasn’t
looked at the camera in a long time and then she looks in the camera and
said, “They have not come.” It’s just awful. It’s awful enough as a story
but then to have her look at you like that – it just doubles the effect of
what it was.
Amanda Burdon, Babe’s daughter, was kind enough to have a drink with me.
She told me a couple of things, one of which was Babe always completed all
of her make-up – put her face on, as they used to say – before she even
left her bedroom. Her husband and her children never saw her without
make-up. The idea of this,
for someone like me, who kind of rolls out… take me as I am... that was a
real acting challenge. To imagine playing someone who felt she had to be
this – as Truman said, “The problem with Babe is she’s perfect.” That
perfection must have had its cost. Especially when your life isn’t as
perfect as your image; that was the secret she was trying to keep from the
world, if not from Truman. I thought that her daughter was very eloquent
about her. That helped me understand the mom.
Toby is rather unknown
in the US. How
did he become the choice to be Truman Capote?
It’s quite a long story how Doug heard about me. I think it’s all rooted
in – I was in a show that was in London, it was a big hit in London,
called The Play What I Wrote, about this double act. I was
like the third person. We brought this to Broadway – Mike Nichols brought
it to Broadway. We did four months here. For a start, it was lucky that
I got (to do it). I’d won an award in
London. That, I think, got me the visa. It’s not straight-forward. We did the
show here. I was asked by Lewis Allen whether I was interested in
reviving Tru, you know the Robert Morse thing (a play about
Capote). I watched this show and we talked about it a bit. Lewis’ wife
(Jay Preston Allen), who wrote that play, her agent, Sam Cohn, basically
recommended me to Doug. I think the recommendations came from a few other
places as well. Although, I must say, anyone who ever saw that show would
not think from that, “He’d be good as Truman Capote!” Because that show
was so vacant and so paper thin. (laughs). It was all about
shtick, really, and rhythm. A whole different set of skills, really.
I was advised about Toby. On the day I finished my script and sent it to
Sam Cohn, the great agent, and to Ellen Lewis, my casting director, they
both called and said,
“"Oh it’s too bad you can’t use this guy from The
Play What I Wrote.” I remember [thinking], I’m so rarely certain, if
there’s anything I know, it’s that we’re certainly not casting the guy from
The Play What I Wrote. I’ve since learned that [if] I’m that
certain, I’m just completely wrong. It’s never even halfway wrong. It’s
completely wrong. Because, a year later – who did we cast?
Got there, sat down, I met him. We had to do a speech. The great thing
about the part is you get to do – there’s amazing darkness at the end of
the script and there’s comedy at the beginning. So, one of them was a very
comic scene, where he’s at Christmas with the Deweys. The other thing I
had to do was the long speech where he explains about his mother. Explains
We spent a whole year. I’m not blaming Warner Brothers in the least,
because they backed the decision entirely when I found Toby and brought
him to them. But in the beginning they weren’t opposed to the idea of
having a person whose name people had heard more than once before that
day. There were a number of actors who were attracted to the script who
wanted to play the part.
He was willing to do the make up and everything. (laughs) No, I
can’t tell you who they were. It wouldn’t be polite. Because these people
who wanted it enough to put themselves on tape and it wouldn’t be nice to
say that they did it and didn’t get it.
Matthew Perry as Truman
(Laughs). We did have agents call with rather wild ideas. I hope
I’m not going too far. I’m giddy in the moment. An agent called and said,
“What about Aaron Eckhart?” I said, for what? I mean would you think
of Aaron Eckhart for Truman?
Well, I would let
him audition. I wouldn’t put it past any actor to be brilliant
something we don’t expect.
All I said was; you know its Truman Capote, it’s not Harry Truman. He
didn’t seem in the Truman mold to me. Anyway we had a number of very good
actors come and put themselves on tape but we would look at the tapes and
they just always felt like good actor doing a good impersonation of
Truman, but they never completely lost themselves you could always see
some part of them.
Which brings up the
Capote. Phillip Seymour Hoffman certainly looks nothing like
Truman and yet he also did an amazing job of
I really can’t comment on Phillip’s performance because I haven’t seen the
film yet… for a lot reasons. I know those people and I would like to give
that film the best viewing I can. This isn’t the right time to give it the
best viewing. When everything’s all done. Also, you might be surprised or
might not be surprised but after you put this much of yourself into a
movie about someone’s life, you’re really not burning with curiosity to
see how another person did it. Nothing against anybody who does it, but I
made all these choices. If they made different choices, that doesn’t mean
their choices are wrong, but they’re different than mine. I may have
chosen not to go that way for a reason, so I wouldn’t necessarily be the
best audience for the film.
Toby, as an actor, what
is it like to win the role of a lifetime and then when you start shooting
you hear that another actor is playing the same role? What goes through
It helps that you haven’t played a role like that before. When I read this
script; you read as an actor – well, I do, anyway, I think I’m normal –
when you read a great role… and this was a fantastic role that was going
to ask everything of me. You read it with a sort of protective sense of
melancholy. You go, this is just amazing. What a part. I’m definitely not
going to get it. (laughs) There’s no way. They’ll never give this
to me. So when you finish you go, yeah, I’ll give it my best shot. But,
I’m already protecting myself against the likelihood. When I got that
part, I just felt this terror, this genuine excitement. The amount of work
I was going to have to do. The transformation I was going to have to
undergo. The idea, then, of somehow begrudging another actor a go at the
same part – a brilliant actor who gets to do it brilliantly – I think it
would be distracting. I’d have to be pretty distracted to worry about
that. All I could do was the best job I could do.
How did it feel that
people will compare it to
It’s inevitable, that part. There’s no avoiding it. I'd do it if one of
them wasn’t my movie. But, I had one thing that was important to me which
was to tell this story, because I felt that I had my own view of what
happened to him. I felt that something terrible had gone wrong in his
life. Up until In Cold Blood is success and happiness and
everything going his way. In Cold Blood [is] his greatest success
and then just down, down, down. I gave a lot of thought to what happened
to him. That kiss, for instance, I did not choose that kiss to be
provocative or frivolous. I believe there was some brief single moment of
intimacy which I thought would unhinge him eventually for the rest of his
life. I just knew that was my point of view. It wasn’t a stated point of
view in a book. So, I thought that I had my own way of telling it. All
that mattered to me is that I get to tell it. If there’s another movie
with their point of view – that didn’t matter to me. I didn’t want to keep
people from seeing our film. I don’t want to deceive you. The tragedy for
me would have been not to make the movie. That would have been an ugly
spectacle that I don’t even care to go into. You would have passed me on
the street in front of the Waldorf talking to myself.
I also had the luxury of being about to go back to
So, I wasn’t involved in – this whole Oscar buzz thing is new to me, the
idea that you talk about an award that’s happening six months from now.
(laughs) It’s a new phenomenon to me. I really hope our film wins
awards. I think it’s a magnificent screenplay. I think Sandra and Daniel
do magnificent work. It’s a complex enough life that you can… I’ve already
sort of alluded to that I think it’s a mythic thing. I think it’s
unsurprising. If you look back to that era, it’s a glamorous era. You have
a fish out of water story. You have a very funny man. You have all of this
possibility of looking at so many issues. It doesn’t surprise me that two
films… that they happened at the same time is funny… but that two films
should be written, it doesn’t strike me as odd.
You mentioned Sandra
and Daniel [Craig]. This is your first lead role in a major movie. How
surreal was it to find out you would be working with stars like Sandra,
Daniel, Sigourney, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Gwyneth Paltrow and Isabella
It’s a very different experience than playing a smaller part. It’s very
hard often with a small part, where you join a set – and I’ve done it a
lot – where you join a set and it feels like a train you’re jumping on.
You don’t quite know everyone. You’re not quite sure what the culture of
the set is, or what level of reality everyone’s acting on. What the
conventions are. If you’re the lead actor, in every scene, you’re having a
very intense relationship with the director – hopefully. You’re both
negotiating. You’ve both agreed a path you’re on. Other people don’t have
that time or that luxury. So, I was struck by the expertise and the skill
of very much more experienced actors and actresses coming on to the set.
They have to come in. It was their skill and, again, the script that made
I think it’s the costumes.
Again, I think I’d have to be pretty mad to be distracted… I had too much
to think about to be worrying, am I as good as Sandra Bullock? Am I
experienced as Sigourney Weaver? Clearly, people could probably debate
that against my favor. (laughs) I knew that I had to just
concentrate. That’s the thing, isn’t it? Concentrate. Concentrate. There’s
lots of things trying to distract you. Your paranoia is the first thing to
get to you.
Sandra, lately, you
have seemed to balance leading roles – like
Lake House and
Miss Congeniality, with strong supporting roles in films like this and
Crash. Is that something you enjoy doing, trading off like that?
smaller roles which I've learned are the ones that end up being bigger and
richer… in experience or working experience… than some films where you’re
six months on the film. You’re the lead and it’s as fulfilling as a half
of glass water. There’s no conscious effort on my part. I’m just lucky
enough to strive to want to do different things and fortunate enough to
get hired to do them.
What was it about this
role that attracted you?
Just the writing from beginning to end. That person, literally that person
(points to McGrath).
There was an
interesting scene in which Nelle and Truman have a debate on his new
version of literature – working a non-fiction story as a novel and the
potential of changing the truth. I know it’s nearly impossible to make a
totally accurate bio pic, and I know you mostly stayed close to the facts,
but in some places things are changed a bit. For example, having Perry in
a crowded cell block, where as I recall in
In Cold Blood he was in a solitary cell in the sheriff’s
office. How much did you want to stay true to the story?
I did mostly. I had a lot of sympathy for Truman; you’ll notice I wasn’t
entirely condemning of him. There’s certain sympathy in that argument.
There was a slight difference between what he was doing and what I’m
doing. I’m not presenting mine as a documentary as the truth. He kept
bending over backwards to tell people how true his book was and yet he
muddied the waters for himself by calling it a non-fiction novel. It took
almost a year to write the script. I thought about that phrase a long
time. It’s never made sense to me. As Sandy says in the movie when he says
I’m going to use the techniques of fiction to tell a non-fiction story;
she says “What techniques? The ones where you make stuff up? Those are the
techniques of fiction.” She’s the one who sees through him. That’s part of
their relationship. They had known each other since they were little and
they could speak to each other that way. But I’m guilty of it to; I might
get a lesser sentence because I’m not presenting it as a totally factual
Is that why the
original title was changed?
The title was changed because my friends in the Warner Bros. legal
department – a very vigorous and active division of the studio – were
genuinely afraid that if we called it Every Word is True, someone
could sue the studio. Because every word in it isn’t true, even though it
was meant with the utmost irony.
Exactly. Every Word is True. Wink, wink. But how do you convey that
in a title?
Irony stops at the door.
Sarcasm stops there
Sandra mentioned that she never really met you, because you stayed in
character. Was that true?
I think she’s being very flattering about my commitment to the part. I
felt very strongly that I had to change my whole… I had a very brilliant
voice coach in London and we talked about the voice, long and hard. About
anatomically what was happening here. What I would have to do to get my
jaw in the right place. We speculated long and hard about why on earth
that should be. Why did he become like that? Obviously, the voice became
the abiding concern. But, I was very keen that it didn’t become
disintegrated from the rest of the performance. I would wander around this
room and we’d debate and speculate about why did he always cover his mouth
when he’d laugh? Is he ashamed of his teeth? Is he tongue-tied? We’d do
that work, but then we’d try and work out what were the effects of his
childhood? What forms a voice? It’s fascinating work for an actor. Kind
of detective work. (to Sigourney) I hope you didn’t think I was
always being Truman Capote.
Not that. I think that – and I was about to play a part where I had to
transform… I was about to play a woman with autism in a movie I had coming
out, Snow Cake. I did this movie right before and I was watching
Toby, because when we met early on, we were talking about these movies.
We were scared. They were challenging. What Toby would do – I don’t know
what he was thinking, but we would have these big scenes, these glamorous
scenes where he had to be the life of the party. Wherever Toby was,
suddenly, this gorgeous imp would be swirling around the room and being
Truman. It was like this little dance he would do before he became
Truman. It’s not that Toby wasn’t there as well, but Toby was not as
noticeable. When you saw this light going on and this other person coming
out, I tell you, it really took your breath away. I feel like I did have
lunch with Truman a couple of times.
Was that something you
tried to do on your own role? Because I thought
Snow Cake was the best thing I saw at Tribeca.
Well thank you. We’re still looking for an American distributor. I was
very encouraged just watching Toby go for it. You just have to not look
back. But, I think what happened to me was – you know, each part teaches
you how to do it. In my case, I did kind of go off and be that person in
the corner. Then I would come off the set. You can find a way to be with
your character in a very intimate way, even though you are surrounded by
people. It’s very sustaining.
With Nelle shunning
fame and you being a world famous movie star;
how do you tap into that desire to never have the
renown and the spotlight?
Admiration of it.
Understand why she did it. I could be well known, but guaranteed no one
has any idea outside of something I want you to see. I never give away
what I don’t mind losing. Anything that I’m sure comprises most of myself;
I would never say in a press conference or in a magazine. It’s not
something I’m comfortable with. I know its part of the job. The last thing
I want to do is a photo shoot or put on makeup. But, its kind of fun I’m
going to be here for this day, and enjoy and get something out of it. I
understand the inclination to disappear. Again, if I were an eighth of the
woman that she was, with talent and insight into something that – I just
wish I knew what it was – I would be a happy person. I just have a
tremendous amount of respect, admiration and understanding for why she did
what she did. I think people need to stop calling her recluse and start
calling her someone who is a great artist who chose to live her life,
instead of the public’s version of her life.
There must be some times when the press attention if fun and when the
press attention is not fun.
I don’t ever find
it fun. I’m finding it very easy to do this press junket,
because I can sit back and listen to you, or
Toby, or questions being asked. You go, I’m glad
you asked me about that instead of, “When am I getting knocked up?” which
is appropriate for a film that has no substance whatsoever. This film
doesn’t warrant that kind of fluff. There is a great sense of relief that
there is respect coming your way, or Toby’s way, or the cast’s way or the
way. That requires thoughtful questions and answers where you actually
have to think. This is easy and you enjoy doing it,
because you have a conversation and it’s different.
Dick Cavett said … all
these people outside for you well the rewards are great but you work so
hard to get there. You sound like you don’t always
enjoy the rewards.
You know what I
enjoy? When we were in
Toronto and there’s a bunch of kids and fans out there, who are
just having the best time. You go over and you spend the time taking care
of the people that ensure… that allow you to do what you do. That, I have
a good time with. It’s a joy and its fun. There’s no expectations. I love
working. Press is hard, because I always try to deflect with humor and
sarcasm. As we said before, sarcasm stops at the door. It never gets
printed the right way. I know no other way of handling it except for that
way; where I come out still feeling unsoiled.
It’s just a balance. This process has been really lovely.
This seems to be the
much “gayer” Truman Capote movie of the two, even though they are both
about a gay writer. The whole thing with Daniel Craig and the romance in
the prison; how much of this do you think is invented or do you think
there is a basis for this kind of intimacy between Perry and Truman in
That’s an interesting question. There are many answers to it. I’d say that
in the Plimpton book, there is straightforward speculation about what
happened in the cell. I think it’s sort of far-fetched that they made love
in the cell – that Truman paid off someone because he could and they made
love. That doesn’t happen in our film. I think something very plausible
happened in our film. Obviously, Daniel and I know enough about acting to
know that we were very keen to understand the rules of the situation.
You’re on death row. What are the rules in operation? What is possible and
plausible? Nonetheless, in the Plimpton book, it does say it. I don’t
think you need to be very smart.
When did you find out
that Daniel Craig was going to be James Bond?
It was about midway through, because Mark Ruffalo dropped out because of
All the King’s Men. It was great, because I know Daniel and it was
a bit under cover. I knew the last two weeks of the shoot were going to
be in this prison cell. So as much fun as I was having with Sigourney and
Sandra and Juliet and all these people, I knew that there was always that
dark end of shoot. Daniel came on the set – we did a little European film
called Hotel Splendide a few years ago, I played his sous chef, and
again he traumatized me on that film…
Why did you choose to
dress him in a more flamboyant way than in Capote? Even though you haven’t seen the film, your
version of Truman is more flamboyant.
That’s the spirit. In fact, he was that way. He had two styles of dress,
we noticed through our research. When he went out with his lady friends...
with the Swans... he always dressed down he
always sort of wore banker’s suits – grey somber conservative suits –
because he was known in those circles already. But, there are times… and I
realized it was always when he was going someplace new. where he needed to
announce himself. It’s when he goes to Kansas. It’s his way of saying,
“Here I am! Get over it.” He wanted to get that out of the way. In fact,
that outfit was described in George Plimpton’s book. He’s wearing
moccasins, and a sheepskin coat, a scarf that went around his neck… almost
to the floor… and something that looked like a pillbox hat. That had to be
a psychological thing. A way to announce himself – not that you would miss
him, even in a bankers suit, once he starts talking. It’s his way of
saying, “look here’s the whole package lets get this over with.”
Was the idea of the
different characters discussing Truman always part of the screenplay?
The script is based on George Plimpton’s book, which is an oral history.
It’s just a series of interviews, people talking about Truman. It seems
the perfect way to make a movie about him and a book about him, because
his life was so much about people talking about other people. I thought it
made sense thematically. It also did a couple things that I thought made
it helpful for the film. It allows you to get direct information to the
audience without breaking the structure of your movie – by which I mean I
wanted to keep the movie set ‘59-‘65. I didn’t want to have flashbacks to
early parts; I wanted to keep that momentum. Because they’re interviews,
you don’t actually feel you’re leaving the time. What they can tell you –
like in Sandy’s
quite amazing first testimonial when she talks about the Christmas pageant
– I felt that was important information to get to the audience. Because it
makes Truman sympathetic and it tells a lot about their friendship. It
also changes how the audience feels about him at that point. Up to that
point in the movie he seems, if you don’t know him, a little odd. It would
be very hard to get that information in a normal scene without quite a lot
of work and it would have been poor Sandy having to say, “Remember that
time your parents abandoned you?”
What actors dread is the expositional scenes. Where they don’t care about
you, your job is to get across all the information that’s needed to tie
the entire film together.
That’s awful. There’s no way to do it in a normal way. [But] if she does
it and tells the camera the story it feels quite natural. The other thing
I just wanted to say is I always felt that Truman’s story was an emotional
story. He doesn’t strike me as a cold or aloof character. One of the
things that I think endeared him to people – even at times when I didn’t
always like him – was his emotions were so evident, always. In a way he’s
like my son, who’s eight; incapable of conveying anything but exactly what
he’s feeling. I felt the film needed to have an emotional quality to it. I
felt those testimonials gave it that, because the actors look at the
camera which really means they’re looking right at you. So it makes a real
connection between the actors and the audience. Thus I felt, or hoped,
would close the gap so that you would feel you’re watching something far
away but thought you were closer to it.
Why do you feel that this portion of
Capote's life holds such fascination to people?
You can look at Truman’s life and it’s very clear. Anyone who is going to
look at Truman’s life, it doesn’t seem miraculous to me that if you could
write about Truman, you’d center on In Cold Blood. In a way – it’s
not foreseen in any way. There’s nothing in his early work that says he’s
going to write In Cold Blood. There’s nothing afterwards that ever
matches up to that. Something happens here, this incredible book, in the
middle of his career. There’s nothing after. Why? And why does he fall
apart for the rest of his life? Why does that happen? I think Doug’s
speculation – and this feels right – is when Truman says if he knew what
was going to happen to him in Kansas, he’d have been out of there like a
bat out of hell. Something obviously got to him in the making of that
book. I think that, possibly… is it too much to say, it’s almost an
archetypal situation where you get what you pray for, but you pay for it
for the rest of your life. It’s almost mythic. At that time, those great
writers, as I understand it – Mailer, Vidal – all these people trying to
write this amazing book. Truman is trying to write this amazing book and
he comes across the potential to do it. Does it. Knows that to get the
best ending for the great book, he has to lose something that matters more
to him. He pays for that for the rest of his life. That seems to me to
be a pretty good subject. (laughs) Pretty good, or pretty
interesting speculation on the way of assessing a life. It’s a good prism
to look at a life. It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it’s a way of
looking at it that looks backwards and forwards, I think.
What do you think of
the line when Nelle says that there were three people who died on the gallows
I think it’s a way of looking at his life, yeah.
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BULLOCK HAD TO SAY IN 2013!
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