CODE 46 - Q&A with TIM ROBBINS
With Tim Robbins (William)
What was the physical experience like on CODE 46?
You had to be ready for everything. The first couple of weeks were fairly chaotic, because we were in Shanghai and that's a chaotic kind of city. I can't understand how more cyclists don't get hit, but there don't seem to be any rules on traffic, or maybe it's that the bicycles rule the traffic and the cars are supposed to stop. I couldn't figure it out, it was too chaotic for me. Michael had such a renegade spirit, that we would just jump out of cars and start shooting and that can be fantastic. I think he got some really great stuff there.
What was the appeal of the script for you?
I really liked the idea of doing a romance. I hadn't done one in a while and I wanted to find one that was interesting. This was set in the future, with the classic love story structure of an obstacle placed between the man and the woman being together. This had classic elements but reinvented in a way that was really interesting. The obstacle was the genetic make up, and the idea that in the future with man messing around so much with cloning that certain people are forbidden from being together, sexually, because of what they might produce. My character and Sam's character recognise a love and a faith and a destiny but they have to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them.
It offers a pretty bleak vision of the future though, doesn't it?
Maybe it's a warning. Maybe it's a way to imagine a future that we don't want to be living in. There are limitations placed in every society. The only way to be totally free is to be free in your mind. There are always going to be restrictions, laws and limitations placed on us. This prevents anarchy. Finding your way to freedom is always a challenge of overcoming whatever obstacles are placed in front of you by society. That's a universal theme. There's a way to be free in a terribly oppressive society, and there's a way to be a slave in a free society. It's really up to the individual and how they choose to live their life and whether they choose to celebrate their freedom or let it lie stagnant and atrophy.
Michael has expressed a more optimistic personal view of mankind's progress - do you share that?
I guess there are some things that are better - life expectancy for instance. There have been advancements in technology that are very beneficial towards mankind. But it's always a struggle to maintain that balance. I've noticed when I turn the television off for extended periods of time, or when I go out the country and stop watching a constant diet of news and entertainment, something happens in my spirit that's different. Maybe that's a lot closer to freedom. Everything has to be taken in moderation, from the distractions you use to alter your consciousness, to the love life you have, to the television you consume. Everything needs to be done in moderation.
Is it a question, then, of being free in your mind?
There's a tendency now to rule by fear, to convince people that they're in danger constantly. At least in my country, although probably in Britain too. There's this scare and that scare, this warning alert and that warning alert. If you just consider what happens when you turn the television off, you'll find if something's dangerous to you in your area. Word will get to you. There are some people that are now staring at that thing for hours and hours and hours, becoming completely terrified of life. That's not a good thing.
How would you describe your character's state of mind when we first meet him?
I think he's miserable. Imagine that you're the enforcer of a rule you don't believe in any more. A good parallel would be the policeman who is a good and honest man, but he has to arrest people for smoking pot. He knows that putting these kids in jail is going to make them criminals, it won't do anything productive for society anyway, so he stops doing it. He makes a decision when he sees that person that he'll ignore it, because he can't participate in that lie any more. But he's not doing his job. His job is to arrest them, but he's making a moral decision. I think William has reached his limit with these kind of overly intrusive laws that he's involved in the regulation of. When he meets her and he sees her spirit he doesn't have the belief he had when he started his detective work. He doesn't have the passion he had. And this, of course, leads to trouble.
On one level the film resembles a classic gumshoe/film noir type of story doesn't it?
It's very interesting in that way. Morality is complicated, it's not black and white. There are reasons to disobey rules at times. William is in a classic film noir situation, where he's supposed to be putting this woman in jail but he can't do it because he doesn't believe in the law any more. And he's in love with her.
You've directed films yourself, to some acclaim, so was it odd to be directed on a low budget British film like this?
Ultimately you go with the director and where he wants to go. You sign on for the journey and you're one of the members of the team. There were times when I was wondering how things were going to turn out, but my job is not to figure out how it all gets put together. My job is to show up for work, to be professional, to know my lines and bring as much as I can to that particular character.
Question & Answer Text Copyright Verve Pictures