THE VILLAGE - Q&A with M NIGHT SHYAMALAN and BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD
Movie Interview by Neils Hesse
With director M Night Shyamalan and his leading lady Bryce Dallas Howard who plays Ivy at the London press conference
Night, what inspired the film?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: I was offered WUTHERING HEIGHTS to do and I loved the whole knotted romance.
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: Talk into the microphone [everybody laughs].
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Ok, yeah well so I had this King Kong idea in my head.
Bryce, given your background were you born to do it?
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: My dad is a filmmaker and my mum is a writer so as their child I guess that would have been the natural progression so in this case a form of rebellion would be to do law or anthropology. My imagination has always been more important to me but I admitted it only when I was 18, so yes now I am an actor.
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Very concise! [Everybody laughs]
Night, would you ever relinquish the writing duty to someone else?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: It is tempting, I have been offered a lot of great screenplays but I find it not courageous enough. Once you start directing more the first thing to go is your writing ability so I am trying to fight that and I wish that people would appreciate the originality of the work more than the box office output.
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD [enthusiastically]: Still feel free to complement the box office part of it as well! [Everybody laughs]
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: The idea is to always go for something risky, moviemaking today is so much about the 'Starbucks' style, give it to me quick and make it good. I remember when UNBREAKABLE came out, everybody was like, Oh it didn't make much money in comparison to THE SIXTH SENSE but these days whenever I meet people they all say that it was their favourite movie and I'm like well where were you when it came out in cinemas [everybody laughs]. It is a constant dance between art and commerce.
How conscious are you of the twists in your stories when you are writing them?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: That is how most stories come to me, it is fun to think in that way although it has its negative side to it as the tenderness of the subject is not noticed. It is kinda like a game, like Agatha Christie, although in her case she could write so many novels. I love it being so multi layered but it is mainly emotions that motivate me the whole family setting.
Bryce how did you deal with the whole secrecy surrounding the movie and did you share the details with your family?
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: Yes it was a very secret environment, it comes more from other people than from Night and it is so unfortunate that so many websites and so on already gave their view of the film based on the materials they had on it. How can you judge the painting before it is completed. So there is a lot of Fedex-ing but that is all down to the efficiency of Fed Ex [everybody laughs]. Of course I went home and read the script but I kept it secret also because I did not want to spoil it for my family.
Night, these four films seem to aim to unsettle people yet you seem like a nice fellow where does it come from?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: I am a very boring guy so this makes my life exciting...
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: That is so untrue.
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: ...a film is only good when the tone is handled properly like LOST IN TRANSLATION - she handled the tone perfectly throughout the whole movie. It is all about finding the heartbeat of the movie, that's why I find it hard to add humour to a movie because you have to balance the tone right.
Night, do you expect your fans to expect suspense from all your films?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Yes that is the aim every time.
Why did you cast Brendan Gleeson?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: He was great in GANGS OF NEW YORK and 28 DAYS LATER. He always brings something unique to his characters.
Night, who influenced you?
So many have inspired me in different ways. Kubrick's formalism feels right to me. Films like ROSEMARY'S BABY and BEING THERE. Peter Weir is great, Quentin Tarantino. When I write it is a very emotional process and it is a very serious expression of things that are important to me.
Night, your fascination is with stories of fear of the dark and the unknown. Where does it come from? Did your parents tell you too many scary stories?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: They never told me stories [everybody laughs], no they did.
Fear by definition is the unknown, like fear of a relationship because you do not know the person - she might be a psycho. Fear is what keeps you safe. Making everything unfamiliar to you. Once we went out as a family and returned home to find our front door wide open and my dad went in with our dog, he is 4ft 2 it was very silly, but at that time because the door was open to the house what was once familiar turned unfamiliar and that was scary as hell.
Bryce, were you relaxed about this whole project?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Heavy drug use and a lot of heroine! [Everybody laughs]
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: No I do not need any drugs and I do not operate with fear that is destructive and disgraceful and all it does is waste your energy. Night cast me without even auditioning me on the back of a play he saw me do. Though the day after we finished I was anxious about the whole thing.
Night, there was controversy over the documentary on you that aired on the Sci-fi channel, how come?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: A lot of people had approached me to make a film on me making films and I had been turning them down as I thought it would simply be boring. But after a while a crew from the Sci-fi channel approached me and I agreed but I jokingly added that there might be some supernatural elements attached to my filming and as such would they be able to handle this, they agreed. So when the whole thing was aired it was done badly and my Auntie saw it and rang up my mother and got mad at her for letting this stuff happen to me but it has all been sorted out now [everybody laughs].
Night, family seem to be very important to you, true?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Yes, very much so as is seen in my films. I write stuff that is important to me, very personal stuff to me.
Bryce, what is next for you?
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: Well I have just finished MANDERLAY the follow up to DOGVILLE for Lars von Trier. I don't know what is next, I don't know what I'm gonna do. The whole filmmaking process is very satisfying. To work with a director who is an angel is great.
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: She is talking about Lars.
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: No I mean you, Lars is an angel without wings.
Bryce, how did you get into character for THE VILLAGE?
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: Blindness constitutes a very small part of Ivy, so I went to The Lighthouse (it is a centre for helping the visually impaired) and the director came up to me and we had a little talk, I didn't realise that she was blind until she walked away. When I read the story I was very sceptical that Ivy being blind could achieve all that she was supposed to in the story. I wore a blindfold for ninety minutes to get the feel for blindness, after that time the brain starts to rewire itself.
Bryce, does your dad offer you advice on your career?
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: The small amount he gave me I didn't take seriously so now he doesn't. But I have learnt one very important thing from him, we can have long careers in this business even if we occasionally fail, we should pick ourselves up and push it further.