POSSESSION - Q&A with Neil LaBute
Movie Interview by Annabel Bayross
Neil LaBute, a playwright and feature film writer/director, born in Detroit, Michigan in the early 1960's and whose past films have been NURSE BETTY (2000), YOUR FRIENDS & NEIGHBOURS (1998) and IN THE COMPANY OF MEN (1997) talks about the anticipated release of his forthcoming film POSSESSION.
What made you decide to make an adaptation of POSSESSION?
I came to this book as a reader. I loved it when I read it years ago as a student and that love of it continued to the point where someone asked me what I might be interested in outside of writing - one of the first things I said was 'Possession'. I went to Warner Brothers and they asked much the same question - 'why?' And at the heart of the story you can see it's about two relationships and both of them go through certain troubles. I knew that there would be corsets and carriages on one side of the story but that would just be an exercise in finery. If we didn't get the heart of the thing right...that's where my interests were and that's why I went after it.
Did you feel compelled to keep the style of writing? Byatt's writing is absolutely, completely diametrically different from your style?
Very much so. Obviously you bring parts of yourself into the fiction but in the end want to remain true to the spirit. You're working with an author, a living author at that - you not only want to please them - you don't want to get sued! You work hard to hope that what remains on the screen is recognised by the people who've read it.
It's not an easy read though is it?
It is widely owned and less widely read. I think those who have read it, cherish it but those who haven't been able to get through it think, "This'll look very nice on the shelf!" I have read it many times now and cherish it the same as I did in the beginning.
You obviously felt you had to compress the story?
Oh of course. Many incidents, many characters in fact, fall by the wayside. You want to be somewhat slavish but at the same time have to break free. On one side there was a wonderfully operatic, melodramatic story with Ash and Christabel. Although they didn't have much screen time they certainly had very memorable and fluid passages. On the other side there were two people who actually didn't want to fall in love.
How did you find the balance?
It's hit and miss. If you find two people who spark by being lucky enough to cast well, then you are most of the way home. Chemistry between people in life is not an easy thing to second guess. Aaron and Gwyneth and Jeremy and Jennifer created the requisite sparks. It took a bit of alchemy, not just on the page but in shooting too.
Is this a one off?
It's hard for me to plan what I am going to be doing next, I mean after this - dinner! A five-year plan is beyond me. I just know what I like. I am probably happier in theatre - I am far more drawn to an actor's face.
Did you ever worry that the two central contemporary actors were just too good looking?
Only when the three of us walk into a restaurant!
Possession - movie information