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Kathryn Bigelow opens up THE HURT LOCKER

GATW Guest Writer

by: GATW Guest Writer
June 24th, 2009

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I am really excited to see THE HURT LOCKER. It has been highly praised by critics as a dramatic and intense depiction of war. LOCKER was the winner of the 2008 Venice Film Festival's SIGNIS Grand Prize. IESB was fortunate enough to snatch an interview with the visionary director of the film, Kathryn Bigelow.

Be WARNED, this Q and A has some mild spoilers (check it out after the jump):

Q: With this movie, you made the camera so participatory and immersed, where the audience feels like the character. How did you create that?

Kathryn: That was actually the intention. Mark came back from Iraq with these incredible observations, that were a real first-person look at a day in the life of a bomb tech. The script really read like you were there. It was a page turner, so I wanted to protect that feeling and give the audience that opportunity to be with a bomb squad. So, I found Barry Ackroyd, one of the most gifted cinematographers working in the business today, and we shot in Super 16, which gave us this life, dexterity and opportunity, in four units, to cover these sets because bomb disarmament dictates approximately a 300-meter containment. The ground forces stop the war for you, and the bomb tech walks on whatever ordinance you are meant to disarm or blow in place. Wanting the audience to real a fundamental geographic sense of space, and go from here to there, it was really critical to keep it very live and a you-are-there experience.

Q: You have a very visual filmmaking style. What was your visual style for this particular movie, since it is so in your face and realistic?

Kathryn: A big part was getting into Mark’s head because I didn’t go to Baghdad. I’d been to Jordan and Kuwait, but not to Baghdad. So, I had to really get in Mark’s head and try to see through his eyes. I had him break it all down, the bomb disarmament, protocol, what it smells like, what it feels like, and the flies and the garbage. Because of the occupation, there are all sort of normal services that are gone, so just living in a war zone, there is fear on a daily basis. It was really looking at a day in the life of a bomb attack through Mark’s eyes, and trying to make it as real and authentic as possible.

Q: Can you talk about casting the three leads, who all said they wouldn’t be able to do the movie without each other?

Kathryn: They really created a unit, which was just extraordinary. I was familiar with Jeremy because of Dahmer. I just thought that was one of the great performances, with his ability to elicit sympathy for that character, which I found virtually unimaginable, and yet he did it. It was amazing. And, I thought Anthony Mackie in Half Nelson was riveting. It was a small part, but he just commanded the screen. And, Brian Geraghty in Jarhead, which again was not a big part, was riveting and memorable. I knew Jeremy had to be Sgt. James, and then the real challenge, because he is such a talented actor, is to find other actors who could meet his talent head-on and challenge him, to a certain extent. I found Anthony and Brian, and it was a perfect match.

Q: You cast some of the more-well known actors in the smaller roles and just snuffed them out really fast. Was that on purpose?

Kathryn: Yeah. The film is very designed to make you feel very comfortable with Guy Pearce. You think he’s going take you through this incredibly indomitable landscape and then, of course, he doesn’t. And then, you are met with actors who are less familiar. As a soldier, over the there, you don’t know who’s going to live. Nobody knows what is going to happen, one day to the next, or one hour, or one minute. So, if you have actors on the screen, for which that cinematic linear becomes attached to, you will think, “How could he possibly be harmed until perhaps the end of the movie?” That ups the anti, in terms of tension and suspense. It was also an opportunity to work with very talented actors, who are some of the most talented actors of our generation.

Q: Why was it important for you to create such an adrenalin rush for viewers?

Kathryn: I look at film as an opportunity to be very experiential. If you really want to stretch the medium, you can give the viewer an experience that they can’t otherwise easily get, like signing up for a tour of duty. And so, when Mark came back, he was talking about some of these individuals, in an idea for a character that he had that combined a few of them into, where they had a tremendous amount of swagger and bravado, almost verging on being reckless, but at the same time combining that with a really profound skill set. I thought that was a really interesting course of direction. And then, we looked at Chris Hedges’ book War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, and one of the elements that he covers is that war’s dirty little secret is that some men love it. There is an allure and attractiveness that combat possesses.

Q: What were the biggest logistical challenges with filming in Jordan?

Kathryn: It was a very film friendly, very hospitable, very generous place in which to shoot, and perfect because we were making a movie about the Middle East, but it was hot. We shot in the summer and the average temperature was 110 to 115. Jeremy’s bomb suit weighed somewhere between 80 and 100 pounds, and that is not a wardrobe cheat. There was literally a lack of oxygen. Those were the logistical challenges. The great thing about Jordan was all of our extras were real Iraqi refugees from the occupation, some of whom were actually actors. That was a great bonus that I didn’t anticipate.

Q: How do you want the audience to feel, at the end of the movie?

Kathryn: I believe the Sgt. James character is truly a hero, but at the same time, that heroism comes with a price. I told Jeremy that there is a price to his heroism, which is that he can’t reintegrate. His home life definitely doesn’t provide the purpose and meaning that being out in the field disarming a bomb does. And, unfortunately nothing can replicate that for this particular character.

THE HURT LOCKER will explode into theaters this weekend.

Source: IESB

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