DERAILED - Q&A with Clive Owen, Vincent Cassel and director Mikael Håfström
Movie Interview by Ania Kalinowska
Clive Owen, Vincent Cassel and director Mikael Håfström, three handsome men of different nationalities, all strut their stuff at the DERAILED press conference. A film about crossing paths, fate, deception and blackmail, this is a mix guaranteed to cause that queasy feeling at the pit of your stomach.
Clive Owen (British Oscar nominee as Larry in CLOSER) stars alongside French actor Vincent Cassel, the ultimate bad guy, in the English language debut of acclaimed Swedish director Mikael Håfström.
Mikael, was the international success of EVIL the reason you were invited to make DERAILED?
MIKAEL HÅFSTRÖM: Yes, EVIL was shown in Toronto which is a place where a lot of Hollywood people go. They saw the film and liked it and I started getting scripts. And among them I got DERAILED, I read it and I liked it. When I started out being a director in Swedish television I made quite a few thrillers, and went on doing different kinds of things. EVIL is a boarding school drama among other things. When I read DERAILED I found the story to be the kind of thriller that I liked, that I enjoy watching, and thought it would be fun to go back into that genre.
Vincent, your character is a rough, tough bad guy but he can turn on the charm when he has to. Was that easy to play?
VINCENT CASSEL: It was very easy, maybe because I had so much fun doing it. The badder the guy is the more fun you have, and if you have fun it shows on the screen. Then came the idea of changing little things with Mikael, the fact that I was French changed something. And we kind of pushed the idea that there were two different sides to LaRoche's personality. Once we had that the character was there more or less.
Clive, was it a challenge to play an American character?
CLIVE OWEN: It was slightly weird because all the interiors were shot at Elstree, but we shot all the exteriors in Chicago. But that [the accent] was how it was written, so of course it helps.
Two of your co-stars, RZA and Xzibit, are big names in the world of hip-hop. Were you a fan of theirs?
CLIVE OWEN: I am a fan, and I'm also a fan of both those guys' acting as well. Sometimes when guys from the music industry go into movies it's all a little bit gimmicky, but I think both Xzibit and RZA showed themselves to be really proper, good actors as well. I knew RZA a little bit; we've got some mutual friends in LA.
VINCENT CASSEL: I grew up on their music, Xzibit and the Wu-Tang Clan. I've got rappers in my family, my brother's a rapper in France, his name is Squat. His real name is actually Rockin' Squat, and the band's name is Assassin. I was happy to work with them.
MIKAEL HÅFSTRÖM: I met RZA with Clive before we even started talking about casting this part. I was in London when I got a call from him saying he really wanted to play this part, and he said that he'd fly to London the next day at his own expense to read for the role. And he did. He came and did a fantastic reading; everybody loved him so he was in the film. Both these guys are very sincere about their acting, it's not like two music guys doing acting as a hobby. RZA had the bigger part of the two in this film, he took it very seriously. I think, like Clive said, if he wants he can have a good career in front of him.
Clive, the heightened drama of a thriller like this is crucial to get right, how do you go about playing the guy caught in this particular plight?
CLIVE OWEN: When I first read the script I thought the key was that you had to believe in Charles's nightmare. It's a very reactive part; usually a leading part drives the narrative forward and pushes the story forward. But in this the story comes at him, and to be convincing you have to react well, so that it's believable. And audiences can be very judgemental. It's a moment of temptation; he's a married guy who ends up in a hotel room with a beautiful girl. He shouldn't be there because he's married, the challenge was to make him understandable, that he's a fallible normal guy who ended up in this situation but really doesn't deserve the nightmare that descends on him.
Did you ponder how you would be if you were in Charles's position?
CLIVE OWEN: I think it's hard to say, the script's there, the character's there. Charles is one of those characters where you're looking at him thinking: 'Why are you doing that?' 'Why don't you do this?' - but that's the genre that we're in. He feels guilty about how he got into this situation, so every time he looks like he could do the thing to sort it out his guilt gets in the way. He's trying to deal with it in the best way he can, but he spirals out of control. It's very much like those old Hitchcock films, where an ordinary guy is thrown into a desperate situation.
MIKAEL HÅFSTRÖM: This is a story about a guy who makes a lot of bad decisions. We talked a lot about it, how it would be if we were in that situation. You could look at Charles Schine and say that he's ridiculous, why would he do that? But then again we don't know what you or I would have done in that situation. He's panicking and doing what he thinks is right for the moment, even though it's not. But you can at least understand why he's doing these things when he's doing them. I think that's also the key to his character. And it's also the key to how we looked at all the situations. I think you can't judge him for that because we can't really know how we would deal with a situation like that. I honestly don't know if I would be wiser than he is.
Mikael was it your intention, to bring together such a multinational cast?
MIKAEL HÅFSTRÖM: It wasn't deliberate at all. We started with a script, and we didn't sit down and say we should get all these people from all these countries together. I met Clive very early on in the process; he read the script and really liked his character. We had a good meeting, so he was on board early on. Then we went on to find actors for these other parts. We started to talk about Vincent at some point, and a little while after that Jennifer. So no, in short, it wasn't at all our plan.
Vincent, did you have any qualms, in joining a long line of French villains in Hollywood movies?
VINCENT CASSEL: It looks like there was a lack of British villains, so now they're talking to the French. I don't mind playing a villain; it really depends on what kind of villain it is. If there is something to chew on I don't mind playing a villain. But for two villains that I did in a row I said no to 25, I think I'm going to stop a little bit now.
VINCENT CASSEL: Actually I will change the kind of stuff that I'm doing - but I've just played the Devil in a movie called SHEITIN, which means 'devil' in Arabic. And then I'm doing two movies in a row about the life of Jacques Mesrine who was public enemy number one in France in the 70s. Crazy man, interesting life.
Clive, how did you find working with Jennifer Aniston?
CLIVE OWEN: It was great. People who can do that light comedy thing that Jennifer does so well are never to be underestimated. It's the hardest thing to do, it's much easier to do the serious stuff. So people who can make it look that easy are seriously talented. This was a different part for her, but there's never any doubt that she's a really great actress and was going to do it. She's been under a very serious, severe spotlight in the last year. She's incredibly uncomplicated, grounded and lovely considering all that. I think most of us would go a bit weird trying to deal with what she's had to deal with but she couldn't have been nicer. She was a real pleasure to work with.
Mikael, did you feel that Jennifer enjoyed exploring a different genre to the one for which she is best known?
MIKAEL HÅFSTRÖM: Yeah, absolutely. She wanted to do it, and she should do other things, she's a very versatile actress. Cinema history is full of great comedians and comediennes who took on dramatic roles and did them very well. Her sense of timing and all of those things that she has shaped so well all those years in that show, for a director it's a pleasure to work with. I think we'll see her in more different roles in the future, hopefully.