Director Neil Burger talks about the Bradley Cooper thriller about a brain enhancement drug, on Blu-ray and DVD July 19th
Neil Burger directs Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Abbie Cornish in the taut thriller Limitless, which makes its Blu-ray and DVD debut today, July 19th. We recently had a chance to chat with Neil Burger about this electrifying tale, which finds a man becoming hooked on a brain enhancement drug.
Here is our conversation.
The momentum contained within this movie certainly isn't spoiled by its synopsis. The initial idea seems a little dry and maybe even boring, but Limitless hums with a buzzing energy we don't often see in pharmaceutical themed stories...
Neil Burger: Yeah. The fun of directing it was coming up with the different ways to play it. We needed to figure out what it was like to be on this drug. How does he process information? How does he see the world. That is where I really started coming up with those visual concepts to show what it was like to be with him and on this drug.
The lead actor needs to be someone who is hyper intelligent, who can pull this process of brain expansion off. What kind of godsend was Bradley Cooper, because he keeps up with the finite details and smart dialogue in a way a lot of other actors wouldn't be able to do.
Neil Burger: That was the key. People know Bradley Cooper from his comedic roles. What they don't know, and what they won't know until they see this movie, is what a great actor he is. He is able to do this. I needed someone that could play both sides of the concept. He is able to be the down and out loser who is about to give up on his writing career. Then he is the guy who is all-powerful, striving through New York. He does both sides of that, and he is really believable. It is a real tour de force part, and he pulls it off.
Creating a fake drug is hard business. What went into coming up with a plausible look and name for this drug called NZT?
Neil Burger: The movie is based on a book. The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. He came up with the name. And obviously what the drug did. But it wasn't just about that for me. Its, obviously, what can this drug do? It's not about getting high. It's not about getting wired. Its about being clear, and knowing what to do. Being able to process information quickly. Its about becoming the best version of yourself. What goes into a drug like that? Its almost like steroids for the mind. It was a matter of coming up with that, what it would look like, and what the side affects are. All of that stuff.
One of the things you pull a lot of tension out of is this guy's supply. We're never sure how much he may or may not have, and when it will all collapse. Obviously, he knows, so how did you choreograph that dance between what he knows, and what the audience knows at any given time?
Neil Burger: I think he has five hundred pills, or something like that. First he starts by taking one. And then he starts doubling up on his dose, which is pretty reckless. Then he starts to think, maybe if he is careful, and he only has one, and he doesn't drink, than maybe he won't have the blackouts. Then he starts talking to that chemist in that lab, who is working after hours for him. So, presumably, by the end of the movie, he has a better, and larger stash.
How much knowledge in chemistry did you have to have in pulling this off and making it believable?
Neil Burger:I knew a little bit. You are always trying to make it as logical and believable as possible. You do want to know what chemicals would be used, and what the side effects would be. How long do they last? What is similar to this? What would it really take to make this turbo charged? You look into all of that and do as much research as possible, because you want to make it as believable as possible.
I haven't read the book. How close is the ending of the movie to the book? And how did you come to this final conclusion? It seems like it might have been a challenge to find a climax that is satisfying for this story...
Neil Burger: Right. It was quite a challenge. The first half of the movie and the first half of the book are similar. Then they start to diverge big time. There is a lot of stuff that happens in the movie that isn't in the book. The fight in the apartment, that is not in the book. This was something we came up with. Because we wanted the ending to be as satisfying and strong as it could be. That was very difficult. A movie is much more like a symphony. We needed a big climax.
As far as the story itself is concerned, it is nothing like Fight Club, but it has the same energy and pacing as that movie. It's thematically tied to that erratic, loopy rollercoaster of emotions. Its intense in that same sort of rhythmic way...
Neil Burger: I have seen that movie quite a few times, and I like it a lot. I like it more the next time I see it. This is like that movie, because it has this gonzo style to it. Fight Club is one of the few movies that is like this one. People will ask me what the movie is like, and its like, "Well, its not like anything else out there." It has a crazy, freaky, freewheeling style and energy. Fight Club is one of the few movies that has that, too.
Did you see the Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle? It came out last year, and it would make a great double feature with Limitless...
Neil Burger: No! I should check that out?
Did you end Limitless with the idea that it could turn into a series, or at least have a sequel?
Neil Burger: I wasn't thinking in those lines. The studio might have been thinking in those lines. Who knows. We aren't really thinking about it right now.
Maybe it will be like Freeway 2, where its not the same people, but the same drug...
Neil Burger: Yeah. I could see that happening with this story.
What are you going to do instead of Limitless 2?
Neil Burger: I am working on Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. It's a really cool concept, and its going to be a really cool movie.
Last question, do you ever get confused for Neil Hamburger?
No! There really is a guy named Neil Hamburger. He tells really bad jokes.
Neil Burger: I guess I'll look him up!