Willem Dafoe & Gugu Mbatha-Raw on Edward Norton’s Directing in ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ | TIFF


– Motherless Brooklyn
is about a private eye who has Tourette’s Syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder, and he goes to figure out
the murder of his mentor and only friend, and gets
taken deep into a web of crime and corruption that
sort of shaped New York City in the mid 50s. – [Interviewer] Perfect,
you got that down. – Wow. – Remember Robert Evans,
the great producer? He said once, you know, if you can tell me your movie
in three lines, it’s a hit. If you can tell me in
one, it’s a blockbuster. (they laugh) (relaxed music) I thought there was very timeless themes and questions in it, themes of empathy and
the idea of, you know, people’s impulse to
either care for each other or amass power and money
and things like that, and I thought that was very timeless. And I thought that the
character that I play, Lionel, was a very, he’s a
very compelling character. Kind of, not to be glib, but in the vein of, you know,
Forrest Gump or Rain Man. He’s an underdog, a very unique underdog. And because you pull for him, he pulls you through a
complicated story, which I love. – [Interviewer] For the two of you, can you tell me sort of
one of Edward’s strengths as a director that you really appreciated while you were on set and make him feel a little
awkward while he’s sitting there? – Well, it’s also the
fact that he’s an actor. He really understands, from the inside, what you’re dealing with,
what your concerns are. As you can see, he’s
incredibly articulate. But he’s incredibly good
at expressing, you know, exactly what he wants. And I think, you know,
having that language capacity to be able to tell you in very few words or, you know, just that energy
of he knows the material so, so intimately, so well prepared. And, you know, I think then
you really do just trust that you’re in great hands as an actor because, you know, you have, you speak the same language, creatively. – We were flying by the
seats of our pants a lot, but in the best way, because
everything was set up. But the actual realization always had a little heat turned up on it. And particularly, if you see the movie, particularly for our scenes,
that was very important. Because there’s always a time restraint. There’s a panic. – An urgency. – An urgency, an urgency. So for me, it was great. And also the fact that
there’s something beautiful about right before a take, he can pull you aside and say, you know that line, toss it, or, you know, making quick adjustments. Not in character but, you know, there’s a line that’s blurred. The director isn’t out there,
he’s with you in the ring, you know, and that’s exciting. It makes it much more fluid and immediate. – Every time you’re on
that knife’s edge of going, are we gonna pull this off? You can feel almost fraudulent, like, you can feel like, we
are winging it, you know? And you have to remember that, not to shy away form that but to kinda lean into it,
let it feed into the energy of what you’re doing, and become part of the tissue of the story. But it’s incredible how you
never totally get used to that. Like, you never take that for
granted, I think you can … – In fact, you get used
to being in that place, where you’re a little scared
and you’re a little uncertain. But that’s a place,
ironically, of comfort. And you can operate from that. And rather than pushing it
away, you say, bring it on. And that usually puts you to a place that you can never anticipate going. You can’t control that. And I always feel like performing is always a nice, you know, contrast of control and letting go. And in this kind of situation, you’re walking that line and usually, for me in my experience, that it usually has more good result, when you find that sweet
spot between those two poles.

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