5 MINUTES WITH: FERNANDO MEIRELLES
The acclaimed director of City Of God and The Constant Gardener discusses his experiences shooting the globe-spanning narrative for 360, a modern-day updating of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde by screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Damned United). Hopping between Bratislava, Vienna, Paris, London, Denver and Rio de Janeiro, the film features intersecting characters coping with love and betrayal in the era of globalisation, played by Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Jamel Debbouze, Ben Foster, Maria Flor and Vladimir Vdovichenkov.
Was it a daunting challenge trying to weave together so many different strands into a fluid narrative?
Fernando Meirelles: This was my biggest concern. The script has so many stories and it could feel very episodic, like a short film festival with different actors, places and languages. So we found ways to do transitions and to connect the stories afterwards. We had the idea of using a lot of wipes so you could have several characters at the same time on screen and help the transitions. This was the big challenge, to make it feel like one film and not a bunch of short films.
Because there are so many stories, did you worry an audience might get antsy watching the film, wondering when Jude Law and Rachel Weisz were going to appear next?
FM: What I like about this film is you can’t tell what’s going to happen next. In 95 percent of films, you know how they’re going to be structured, or at least it’s that way for me. Maybe because I read so many scripts, I find they can be so predictable. Sometimes for me it’s hard to watch films with this kind of structure, and that’s why I liked Peter’s script. I thought, “Finally a film where I don’t know where it’s taking me.” I felt very challenged by it.
Your previous films have dealt with heavier themes. Did you like the idea of telling something a little bit simpler?
FM: Yes, but this also talks about our world, how everything’s connected. If a European leader says something in the morning, the stock market goes down and somebody’s fired in Argentina – our lives are really connected. We could have created a film that talks about this in an obvious way but Peter came up with the idea of talking about it through relationships which I thought was smart and different.
Apart from Hopkins, Law and Weisz, the actors you’ve cast don’t have a high profile. Was that deliberate?
FM: Actually, there are a lot of stars in the film. In France, Jamel [Debbouze] is more known than Jude Law, and in Russia, Vladimir [Vdovichenkov] is a bigger star than those three together. In Brazil, if Maria [Flor] walked down the street with Rachel, everyone would ask her for her autograph and not know who Rachel is.
How was it working with Hopkins?
FM: His character was supposed to be a middle-class British guy, retired –just a regular joe. But when we first spoke, he said, “I like the part and I want to play it because it looks like my life. So let me play myself. I’m not going to be a character, I’m going to be Anthony Hopkins.” That scene at the AA meeting, he’s talking about himself. He started using the lines in the script and then he used his own personal experience as an alcoholic who still attends AA meetings. It’s so moving and each take was so emotional. The first cut of that scene was 12 minutes, it was fantastic. I wish I could keep it all but I had to cut it down.
Looking ahead, do you know what your next project is going to be?
FM: I’m developing a projecting for Pathe UK based on the book Nemesis. It’s the story of Ari Onassis. It’s about the power of hate, about this guy who needs to hate people in order to create his empire. It’s a strong story. Jackie Onassis, Bobby Kennedy, everybody will be there. We’ll have some flashbacks but it’s really the last 10 years of his life. It tells how he needed to find a target to destroy, and once he’d destroyed them he would move on. It has a bit of There Will Be Blood to it, but it’s real. The guy was really a gangster.
Words: Matt Mueller
360 is released in UK cinemas 10 August 2012