Irish director John Moore talks to RTÉ.ie's Taragh Loughrey-Grant about his new film 'Max Payne', ahead of the film's release on Friday 14 November. Starring Mark Wahlberg, the film is an adaptation of the Remedy Entertainment video game. Based in Los Angeles, Moore talked to RTÉ.ie during a recent trip home.
Taragh Loughrey-Grant: How did 'Max Payne' come about?
John Moore: I was very wary about it as doing a film adaptation of a video game can be quite risky but I got the script and at first it read like a pulp novel and I'm a big fan of that Americana detective stories, so it read like that. I thought why don't we push harder and after about six months we ended up with a script that I thought could be a great movie.
When you make a movie out of a video game, it’s a very dangerous game because what you're basically doing is taking control away from a player. You're taking that play station controller out of the hands of his or her hands so you better make sure that you're putting something of value back into their hands. For me I thought that if we're going to do that, then the emotional experience has to be as attractive as the game play.
So we tried to make sure that people weren't bored basically, is the most honest answer I can give you. We tried to give the visual impact high. It’s a dangerous game, turning video games into a film so our mantra was to keep it visual, keep it entertaining and make sure people weren't looking at their shoes or watch.
TLG: Were you worried about disappointing fans expectations?
JM: The problem is if you try to please everybody, you'll please nobody. Of course you listen to the fans, I read a lot online stuff and you get a sense of their fear. They don't necessarily want you to make a film out of their game; their game is their game so you have to be cautious that you're not doing something that'll upset the fans. Having said that, you have to make a movie for people who don't give a s**t about the game. You have to make a movie first, if it pleases the gamers, it pleases the gamers. You're moving into a different medium and it has to work within that medium.
You can't keep nudging the audience saying 'Ha, ha, that looks right the game, right?' In some ways you have to abandon the game, or abandon your slavishness to the game, to create the film. I think we have made a film that will appeal both to existing fans of the game and also to people who have never even heard of the game before, that’s what we tried to do.
TLG: How did you cast Mark Wahlberg in the title role?
JM: Well, I thought they'd be no movie without Mark, which was a very scary proposition because I remember thinking if this guy says no, who else is there? And I couldn't come up with a list. Without him the movie would have gone bust. I can't imagine 'Casablanca' without Humphrey Bogart and I couldn't imagine 'Max Payne' without Mark. So I rang him, cap in hand and luckily he said yes.
TLG: Looking back at your first big feature film, why do you think that Fox and Davis Entertainment trusted you with 'Behind Enemy Lines', and their A-listers Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson, when you were a relatively unknown director.
JM: Without being egotistical about it, actors look for confidence, they want to know that someone has a vision of the film and how to get there. The same with filmmakers, you have to have a certain amount of self-belief and confidence when you are a director or leading actor or whatever. I had that belief in my work and so they had that belief in my work and in me. I think any director will tell you this, as long as you have confidence, an actor will come with you on that journey.
I think it was a great benefit to me that I came into the film industry in the '90's when there was a great boom in the Irish film industry, I was able to go from job to job plus I also got a lot of experience directing a lot of commercials in Ireland and that really stood to me. I've done stuff for Guinness, some of the earlier ones for the (GAA) hurling to Kellogg's to Coca Cola to Irish Rail. The most recent one was the one for Vodafone ice skating on Grafton Street, which I think is going to be on air again this Christmas.
TLG: Most of your work is in LA, is that where you live?
JM: I spend most of my time there but I love being in Dublin, I'm home now and I love it. My two-year-old has clocked up so many air miles already. He loves it here and visiting his granny and I'd love Buzz to go to school here.
TLG: Buzz Moore, great name for a little boy. Did you name him after anyone in particular?
JM: I'm a space flight freak. He was named after Buzz Aldrin. He's a great little guy, a real little fire cracker. He's always flying around the place.
TLG: As well as directing, you have produced your last two feature films ('The Omen', 'Max Payne') and will do the same for your forthcoming film 'Virulents'. Is this something you've always wanted to do?
JM: I started to realise that producers have a much easier job than directors! They get the money, come in and put their feet up and tell the hot babe she looks great and invite her into the trailer! Seriously though, as a producer you can watch out for new talent and see that talent grow. Down the road it's what I want to do, produce more and direct less.
TLG: Would you not miss directing?
JM: I think that if I was on the set and the director knew about my past, then I could be the mother hen and say 'You know what, that shot would look much better if you tried this or that'. It would be great; I'd still be able to contribute in that way.
TLG: Perhaps being a dad has contributed to your prospective career change?
JM: You make a good point there. That could be part of it.
TLG: Many people have said that your cinematic trademarks are your use of the colour red and your quick, choppy edits. Would you agree?
JM: I'd agree with that. I'm happy my editing style is very aggressive; I don’t think there's anything defensible or wrong with that. I think it's just what I do.
TLG: Variety Fair wrote a story recently saying that you were thinking of doing a remake of the 1978 'Capricorn One' film?
JM: There is some truth to that. We're going to reinvent the wheel a little bit. 'Capricorn One' was a great movie of its time because it was basically of the idea that you can't trust your government. Obviously following the Barack Obama election that’s been slightly askewed but I think the past eight years have proven to the American people that they can't trust their government, so I felt that it was time again to make a movie that could point to the giant fraud that any government is capable of perpetrating.
TLG: You're looking at a possible release date in 2010?
JM: Yes, possibly.
TLG: Are you a Democrat and Obama supporter?
JM: I'm a Democrat or a Republican depending on their policy on any given day or any given week. I'm somewhat stunned by this rockstar reaction that a politician has managed to garner despite his lack of substance and his lack of policy. He has not made his position on Iraq clear. He has not made his position on solving the American financial crisis clear. He has not made his position on tax cuts for the middle classes clear. I'm a little dismayed that somebody can run on a rockstar platform and get elected. I don't know whether it's wise or unwise but he stayed very clear of the whole Hollywood endorsement.
TLG: Both Obama and John McCain did.
JM: Both of them did...well, McCain was never going to get it. Obama seemed to stay away from it because he was probably afraid of being tainted with the celebrity brush but yet he turns out to be the biggest celebrity in the world.
TLG: Another film you're working on is 'Virulents', tell us more about it.
JM: That’s a movie that was born out of a graphic novel for Virgin Comics. It proposes the idea that an Indian God, who unleashes great evils in the world, is awoken again by a war when Americans start bombing the s**t out of Afghanistan. That’s gonna be a good one.
TLG: Have you cast anyone yet?
JM: Its early days, we're still writing so no we haven't.
TLG: Do you co-write many of your films? If so, why are you not credited?
JM: I co-write nearly all of my films but because of the bizarre rules of the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild basically they don't let you credit yourself but that's fine with me.
TLG: How do you think both the American and Irish economic situations will effect box office takings?
JM: There's a great link between movies and recession because during a recession people tend to go to the movies more to escape the harsh realities of what's going on. I think as long as people have a couple of quid in their pockets they'll always want to go and spend a couple of hours in a dark room and escape it all.
'Max Payne' is in cinemas from Friday 14 November.