Long before Finding Neverland hit theaters, Marc Forster was touring the country to promote the movie. My audience liked the movie quite well, and afterwards, got some insight from Forster himself. Humble and nervous, Forster nevertheless impressed the audience with his forthrightness. Among the tidbits he gave the crowd:
- Milo (to whom the film is dedicated) is the son of a producer.
- Depp was perfect for the role because “Depp is an actor where the child inside is still alive”
- Forster thought Dustin Hoffman was too big a name and he didn’t want him; it would have been too intimidating, but he ended up accepting him when Hoffman insisted and eventually won him over
- Forster wanted to direct Finding Neverland even before he directed Monster’s Ball, whose success earned him the right to direct it after all.
- I do think there are several Kubrick films I could watch over and over again. I think Paths of Glory is really just a wonderful film. From 2001, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, there's always something interesting that appears.
- If you're in a meditative mood, I love Antonioni. Like Red Desert, L'Avventura. But then it's La Notte he did before which is a great film too
- Who I always love, and three films I could watch over and over again are from Nicolas Roeg. Performance, Don't Look Now, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. All three of them are just wonderful. Just inspiring and interesting.
- Five Easy Pieces
- Alan Pakula made two great movies, The Parallax View and All the President's Men. Both movies are both from Pakula. Wonderful.
The next day at our interview Forster was polite, focused, still a little nervous, and very informative. Born in Germany and raised in Switzerland, Forster speaks with a mild Nordic accent.
Marty Mapes: There’s a scene in which Barrie makes it clear he’s not “interested” in little boys that way. Why even include that? I didn’t think it was necessary.
Marc Forster: It is something which has been brought up throughout history with him. A lot of the pedophiles claim him as one of theirs and say he’s a pedophile. All historians say he’s not a pedophile. All history books say he’s not a pedophile. I did specific research on it because I didn’t want to make a film about a pedophile if he really was one. But it is a controversial issue — not in the public, but there are certain organizations. And then I thought, “You know what, I just have to put it in there so it’s out there.” They’re not having me avoid the issue, because I’m addressing the issue. It’s much better to look the other side into the eye and address it.
MM: I had been going to joke about having such a great cast — Depp and Winslet — that a director didn’t need to do any work. Then you said last night that you didn’t really do rehearsals. Maybe I was right.
MF: They’re incredible actors. The tendency of a lot of actors is they just need reconfirmation that’s the direction you want to go. They’re so fine-tuned they can slightly overact, underact, and you have to find just the right emotion to the scene, and also cut in your head that you’ve got the emotional essence of the scene. They give very good performances. Every take is different but ever take is a different level of emotional directness. There’s no question they’re great actors, but it’s still just as important to pick the moments, see the moments, and maneuver them [the actors] through the moments. They are not capable of being bad.
My editor and I work very closely on that: how you want to play a scene, when you want to cut to a person, when you don’t want to be on the person, all these things, its very very tricky.
MM: You also said last night that Miramax mostly left you alone. How did you swing that?
MF: It was under their radar. The film was pretty low budget compared to everything else. The actors worked for less money, everybody was working for less. They basically already made a profit. Johnny Depp’s price as an actor right now is as much as the budget of the movie. So you can’t really lose. So basically they were on very safe ground. And they then left it alone.
MM: Monster’s Ball was a big success. I wonder if that made some of these actors search you out versus you searching them out.
MF: I definitely searched Johnny Depp out. At that point he actually took a year off. He was in the south of France with his family. It was the first film he did after his break. So I was looking for him.
MM: You said Dustin Hoffman basically sought you out. Who else was looking for you?
MF: Kate was very passionate about the part and really wanted to do it. She just was intended to do the part.
MM: There were some other big names ... Julie Christie....
MF: Julie Christie was one of the people [who sought the part]. She liked the script, she liked my film. She’s a very interesting woman. You know she did like epics like Doctor Zhivago and so on. She doesn’t really like to act and she hasn’t acted for a while. But she just said she can’t make a living otherwise because every other job she tried she couldn’t keep working there, so that’s why she does movies once in a while.
MM: If you get more success, you might get bigger budgets and more rehearsal time, but you might also get more producer intervention. How do you feel about that?
MF: I think there’s a certain level where the studio feels safe, you get big actors, they’re cutting their price to a certain degree because they want to work with good material and want to work with the director. And you don’t go over the threshold where they feel almost in profit before you start. So there is no big risk for them. So they just should leave you alone.
MM: So is this [budgetary realm] an ideal place for you?
MF: Yeah. That’s the place I intended to be. I might once do a big film just to have the experience, but I also want to do like really small films again because there’s something very intimate and private about them as well.
MM: And what is family life for you? Do you have kids?
MF: No, I’m not married, no kids. I’m in a relationship. I have a girlfriend. But at the same time you know when you work so much and travel so much it’s even hard to keep them.
MM: You were born in Germany?
MM: And moved to New York?
MF: No, I grew up in Switzerland. I actually feel like I’m swiss. And then moved to New York when I was 20. Went to NYU from 20 to 23.
MM: And this film was shot in England. So where do you feel your home is?
MF: The U.S.; but you sometimes live in hotels and places you rent and its’s like sometimes you feel a little homeless or just disorientated. It’s strange but after a while that you say “Okay where do I actually live. Where do I belong?”
MM: One of my favorite writers is Jonathan Raban an Englishman who writes about America. I’m reading de Tocqueville. It’s interesting to see the impressions of America from foreigners. Some might say Monster’s Ball is your own outsider’s view of America.
MF: I always find it interesting. Even when you watch Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm. Or Sam Mendes’ American Beauty.
MM: Are you still fascinated by America?
MF: Oh yes. I love it. The wonderful thing about American culture is it’s so diverse. I mean you have this incredible potential of freedom here. It’s still an incredibly strongly repressed society to a certain degree, but in another degree, they’re so open, so much more than Europe. I mean Europe is emotionally repressed, really closed up. And I think here people are much more hopeful, and that’s why they’re so diverse. You can really be yourself. I find that fascinating. You really don’t find that anywhere else in the world. Look at the Brits. Like Finding Neverland, even in that period — or even now, they’re so repressed. And they’re funny, but it’s merely a facade.
MM: I’m curious what you read.
MF: I read a lot of things. I read a lot of philosophy books. I read a lot of Eastern, Asian philosophy and I read politics, I like as well. What happens with the E.U. is interesting. Or what is happening just in Eurorpe, like Italy — Berlusconi, you know what’s happening with Sharon in Israel. I mean all so many interesting facades of politics and what’s happening right now everywhere in the world.
But at the same time just novels and books. And some in German, some in English. I love reading. I do love a lot of those, like the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by this Tibetan monk which is a really wonderful. Sogyal Rinpoche is the author.