It's Thanksgiving Day, time to get the family
together and see -- what?
Piss, shit and fart jokes in "Old Dogs?" A
multiply addicted and deranged Nicolas Cage abusing people as he tries to solve
the mass murder of an immigrant family in "Bad Lieutenant?" Ninjas severing
limbs, lopping off heads, disemboweling bad guys and in general filling the
screen with screams and gouts of blood in "Ninja Assassin?" The end of the
world as a CGI spectacular in "2012?" Or the end of the world as a vast expanse
of ash, ruins, and gnawed-on corpses in John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac
McCarthy's "The Road?"
Before you take the easy way out and opt for
Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" you might reconsider "The Road." I mean, how
bad can your own life be compared to that of a guy (Viggo Mortensen) living out
of a shopping cart trying to protect his boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from being
eaten by roving bands of redneck cannibals? This movie will make you truly
So stop your complaining, finish your
cranberry sauce, and get in the car.
That's what John Hillcoat would tell you.
And here's what he said to me when I
interviewed him a couple of weeks ago.
PK: Last year around this time, fans of "The Road,"
the book and also of "The Proposition,"
your movie, were distressed because the film was postponed to some future date.
What exactly was going on around that time?
JH: Well, I mean the released date - the original release
date-I wish that they had never mentioned it because it was way over ambitious.
I mean we were still filming. Well, just several things were going on. One of
our locations at the end of May shooting was 20 feet under snow so we had to go
into post-production and then go back.
PK: Was that Mt. Saint Helen's?
JH: Yeah. And then go back in July and film in July so that
kind of delayed things. It would be been such a mad rush. It would have just
completely sold the films short in every aspect. There were many occasions when
we needed visual effects to come in whether it's jet streams or birds all that
kind of stuff and there's this incredible delicate balance of the story because
it's not an everyday sort of narrative, it's a simple narrative but it's a road
trip. It's episodic. There's repetition that's much more pronounced on film
than it is on page in print, so that' something we had to get right. So we did
finish it much earlier, but we didn't want to release it in summer. We missed,
we were literally in post[production] and cutting things together and when that
release date came and then they realized where this film was at, they realized
it was impossible.
PK: Did you do preview screenings or things like that?
JH: Oh there's always, there's a strange way of working here
of test screenings. I mean I think it makes sense for comedies or where it's
just 100% horror. Something like that where you could hear the gasps or hear
the laughter. With drama, it's-
PK: When you get the laughter it's usually a bad sign.
JH: Well, it's just a poor system. I mean it's always great
to screen it for an audience, there's no doubt and you can feel the vibe in the
room whether things are working or not, that's all very invaluable. But there's
just a testing pseudo-science in this country that's gotten way out of hand.
Luckily we only did two preview screenings.
PK: You seem to have survived it pretty well. Is this pretty
much what you had in mind.
JH: Yeah, absolutely. The good thing is - the one thing we
all were striving for was being faithful to the book and what kind of film it
was going to be.
PK: Harvey [Weinstein] didn't intrude very much?
JH: No, a lot of these kids....but actually it's more of Bob's
[Weinstein] baby. It's a Dimension film. It stretches, it pushes into other, it
incorporates other genres. It's an adventure, it's a love story between a
father and son, it's an apocalypse, obviously, it has elements of horror. It's
quite an unusual film for a Dimension film.
PK: It's shot in the Pittsburgh
area; is that an homage to George Romero?
JH: Umm, well it's an homage to the end of the world. No Pittsburgh is actually
beautiful, especially in the fall, it's stunningly beautiful. That was pure
logistics, of where do you find these locations that can look like the end of
the world and surprisingly you can find them all over the country. So the
reason Pennsylvania came up was the number of barren landscapes from strip
mining and in the winter, the deciduous trees losing their leaves, the
abandoned freeways - there's one such interstate with tunnels - and there's all
those things. But we also went to Louisiana for the post- Katrina clean-up that's still
going on; we went to Mount St. Helen's, as I mentioned, where there was so much
snow, and Oregon.
So yeah, four states.
PK: Why not California?
It's pretty much burned down.
JH: We were thinking
of coming down to California,
there was debate. We thought it was a little bit, no, it was impractical and
PK: Like you said, a lot of the end of the world imagery is
all around us, like. Certainly 9/11 comes to mind with all the ash in the
movie. But I also read that one of the more striking images, the blood in the
snow, came from footage you had seen from Bosnia?
JH: Yeah that's right. There was actually just a photo from Bosnia, all the
hundreds of bloody footprints in the snow. I mean the book felt really familiar.
It didn't feel like a futuristic kind of fantasy. It was much more realistic
and that's what was quite fresh and confronting about it.
PK: One thing about the book and also the movie that was
quite powerful is you don't explain what happened.
JH: Yes. And that's again, look when you think about if you
survived Katrina or the 9/11 towers and you're in the middle of that sort of
stuff, it's a long, long time before you can work out what actually happened. Once
the media contextualizes it from the safety of, you know.
PK: And there's no media, obviously, in this.
JH: Yeah, there's no media, and there wouldn't be - if it
was a global thing, there wouldn't be any kind of media discussion and also
your priorities all change, the second you're past that event, it's all about
the here and now and how do you get through the next day.
PK: Yeah, the explanation and the causality allows you to
distance yourself from the situation.
JH: Yeah, and it also puts the spotlight on a human
relationship of father and son and it's really that love story
that the book,
and movie hopefully - you know in a way everything else is just backdrop and
obstacles to put pressure onto the father and son and see how they deal with it
and it reveals more and more about them, it shapes their whole journey and, as Cormac
said, it's about human goodness.
PK: Whereas if you got the cause, the focus would be on
making this a cautionary tale about global warning or nuclear war or something
like that. But in one of the trailers, didn't they have hints as to what the...?
JH: Well yeah, I mean that was frustrating, from my point of
view. I would never want footage in a trailer that you've never even shot or
you've never even considered putting in your own movie. The thing is I kind of
understand it from a pure marketing point of view. They were thinking of people
that have never read the book or don't know anything about the film to
contextualize it in a very short or punchy way. But, you know, I think it can
be, as I say, it really is about this father-son journey. So, there you go.
Next: Remember the Titans, and what's with the missing thumbs?