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Interview: Joe Carnahan


Joe Carnahan is an extremely easy guy to interview. Here's a guy who isn't giving you a bunch of studio-fed BS, he's shooting from the hip. Not only do I respect that, but it certainly makes for a more interesting interview. We laughed about the travails of having kids and the virtues of Netflix before we even got into the nitty-gritty. Maybe we should've gotten into it sooner cause we were rushed along towards the end by a PR rep. Anyway, here's me and Joe Carnahan talking SMOKIN' ACES, his TV pilot and a Tremor Brothers prequel.

Joe Carnahan

Do you see DVD as a good chance to catch up with a new audience since it didn’t really connect in theaters?... Absolutely. …Cause some of those reviews were just brutal. The New York Times said it’s “a movie that may not only be dumb in itself, but also the cause of dumbness in others.” I don’t know what the hell to make of that. Listen there was a degree [of review] that I felt was just being mean to me because I didn’t do another NARC. It wasn’t perceived as a serious film. There was another [type of review] where I think they just completely missed the fucking boat. They didn’t get at all what the film was going for. Our original budget was $20 million. That’s what they gave us to make this film. It’s a little bit of money but it’s low-end as far as mainstream films go, which are usually in the $60 millions. So I knew going in that it was going to be experimental in a lot of ways. You try to do really broad comedy against really dark drama and often times those things don’t mingle. And I felt like I was deliberately trying to go for something that was… and I knew it. I knew it was gonna polarize on some level. I knew there was some critical population that wasn’t going to get it. Other people were gonna love it. And I’ve even said, I don’t know that if I watched this film one time I’d appreciate it that much. It’s the same way I felt about NARC. It’s something that I knew over time would find its true audience. And it did. And I think SMOKIN’ ACES won’t be any different, though a completely different kind of film. That’s kinda the point I think. Who wants to make the same movie twice? I certainly don’t. Some of [the reviews] were just vitriol and I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. But again at some point you just disengage. What can you do? You know what you know and you know what you were going for. Artistically it did what you wanted it to do and everything else is a wash, man. You can’t concern yourself for that. And hey it produced one of the funniest TV spots of last year with the negative New York Times quotes in the ad. Universal did a great job of taking that review and using it to our advantage, which was great. I thought it was very rare was a critical assessment was worth a shit except when you can use it to foil their intention which was to trash the film. Again, the minute I start worrying about what critics think about my films, I might as well hang it up. Then you’re really dead. You’re just floating out there with no propulsion whatsoever. Overall were you happy with the way the film was marketed? Did you think it could’ve hit a broader audience? No I absolutely was. At the end of the day we almost did $40 million domestic and I think it’s projected we’ll do $80 or $90 million worldwide. This is a $20 million movie, man. It’ll crush on DVD too. It was a tough movie to market too. It’s neither fish nor fowl. This movie tries to be a lot of things. As a film itself I’ve always described an animal. It’s like a platypus. It doesn’t fit into any easy categorization. So I think that given it was kind of an uphill struggle, they did a great job. Well this certainly seems like a movie that’s tailor made to find its audience on DVD, especially with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Oh yeah. All the bonus stuff is great. There’s the original ending, which is included in there. There’s a Tremor Brothers thing. The theatrical version of their rampage was a minute-something, this is three-and-a-half minutes on DVD. That’s a lot of fun. More and more of that stuff comes out on DVD and nothing gets left behind. Even the smallest things that didn’t fit into the overall scheme of the movie, you can always find a place for them after the fact and that’s great. It creates a broader appreciation from the audience. Speaking of the Tremor Brothers, one of the things I enjoyed most about this movie was the impeccable casting job including Chris Pine as a Tremor plus Curtis Armstrong, Tommy Flanagan… Everyone really came to the party to have a good time and to really stretch. I deliberately went against what these guys normally play. Curtis Armstrong, obviously, usually plays funny and goofy and I made him this battered guy doing this traumatic stuff with Jeremy [Piven]. Jeremy’s the same way. And Ryan Reynolds. Took away their natural concept and their amiable characters that are funny and witty and made them really settle into roles that they desperately wanted to play but were unfamiliar. And I think it was met with either people being really impressed or really turned off. Like Ryan not doing another variation on VAN WILDER. With all these great characters, it really is ripe for some kind of spinoff. Have you ever considered a sequel or prequel? The Common/Alicia Keys storyline certainly had a promising future. I’ve thought about doing a Tremor Brothers prequel and going direct-to-video and…they asked me to write the comic book, which I had a blast doing. I never rule anything out but also you’re artistically you’re in a place for a certain period of time and then you want to do other things. I don’t know. I think it’s…in the same way I’ve never had an urge to do a sequel. It’s certainly ripe for it but I wouldn’t rule anything out. It'd be awful hard to do a sequel with the busy schedule you've got what with WHITE JAZZ and the TV pilot you're working on. It'll be nice to have the summer off [after the death of WHO IS BUNNY LAKE]. It'll be great. There's this one thing brewing that's really great, that television project. It's something NBC might do. It's kinda like a "Prime Suspect" that's really, really interesting. It's really innovative in the way that they want to do this. But that's one thing. Beyond that I've just finished a spec screenplay that I've been writing for a long time, then WHITE JAZZ ramps up and from there I'll go right into KILLING PABLO. I'm thankful to have the work. And to hopefully and constantly evolve. Like I said, I don't want to make the same movie. The careers I admire - the Ang Lees and the Soderberghs - are fearless. They do anything. They're unafraid of any kind of subject matter. That's the director I want to be. That's the kind of career I'd hope to have. Listen man, I've been unbelievably blessed so far. Were you able to get Guy Pearce signed to reprise his LA CONFIDENTIAL role in WHITE JAZZ? You know they made my brother [writer Matthew Carnahan] and I change the Exley character's name. Cause they're developing a project that's like a LA CONFIDENTIAL 2. So that's a bummer. I had met with Guy and he really wanted to be a part of that. But George [Clooney] remains so we'll build it around him.
Source: JoBlo.com



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