The producer behind the Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp thriller also talks Martin Scorsese's Hugo Cabret
Producer Graham King has taken Hollywood by storm over the last ten years. He's made some great indie films, but it's his collaborations with Martin Scorsese that have brought the accolades. King and Scorsese have made Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and the upcoming Hugo Cabret together. King is an unabashed fan of Scorsese's and was very excited about their latest venture. I did get some questions in regarding The Tourist, but his foray into 3D with Scorsese was foremost on his mind:
So here we are in Paris talking The Tourist...
That's saying something, why is that?
Graham King: To see Martin Scorsese shooting such a huge film. We have kids, and dogs, and green screen. And we're shooting in 3D. So to see what this will look like in 3D will be amazing. And this is not converting 3D, we're shooting in 3D, so it's unbelievable, mind-blowing this film. Prepare to wear the glasses!
Interesting, getting back to The Tourist for sec, can you talk about choosing Johnny Depp as your lead actor? This is such an old Hollywood, Cary Grant-esque role, something we haven't seen from Johnny as of yet...
Graham King: I never think of Johnny Depp having any trouble pulling off a role. He's one of the most gifted actors out there and can play any role. When I got the script, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the director and Angelina Jolie were already attached. So who should we cast as Frank? I had just finished The Rum Diary with Johnny. We have a company where we develop material together, so we are pretty close. I knew he wasn't working until the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, so I thought if we could get this up and going then we could get Johnny. Florian was like, wow, didn't expect that idea (laughs). We both agreed. I was having dinner at Johnny's house, left the script, and the original film. I remember driving away like at 2 AM thinking, you never know, it's a long shot. Then two days later I get a call from Johnny and he's really into it. We were literally shooting ten weeks later. It was really quick.
So what made you have confidence in Florian as a director to pull this off? He'd made one film previously, The Lives of Others, which is a great film but much smaller than this. Here you've got two of the world's biggest stars, an expensive shoot in Venice, a tight schedule...
Graham King: Well, his first film was so well done, and he did that on no budget. He had the passion to do this. I knew he had been in Hollywood for three years after The Lives of Others, and was passing on everything. You know, as a hot director after the Oscars, they get offered everything. We spent a lot of time talking about where we wanted the movie to go. We were both on the same page. He's not a guy who sounds like he hasn't done a few films before. He's very smart. I knew for his career, it had to be something that he could do in Hollywood now. So the stakes were raised. I felt comfortable with Florian. To me, it's about passion and honestly, not just getting a guy to direct a movie because it's his job. I never blinked about the size of this movie. Venice was always going to be an obstacle. It's a character in this movie. We really wanted to show Venice in a way that hasn't been seen for a while in American film.
It must have been such a difficult shoot?
Graham King: A lot of things worked in our favor because we filmed in the winter. There weren't a lot of tourists around. We were kind of given the run of the place. And we had such an experienced crew; although, the 2nd unit director and most of the crew were not too happy with Venice (laughs). They made it work. It was a good shoot.
A question about your overall career as a producer, most of your films are huge productions, how do you handle such big projects and the egos of the people involved?
Graham King: It's a collaboration; always. For me, I can't believe I've made four films with Martin Scorsese! You got to be joking to say that. Just saying that is...Amazing. I never look at this as it's about me. It is us, a collaboration always. I've never gone for films that are mainstream. I always shoot for tough to sell, something that maybe Hollywood or mainstream audiences don't immediately gravitate too. My movies are dear to me. I think, as a producer, once you do something really hard, then everything is easy. The Departed was undoubtedly the most difficult to produce.
The Departed? Why?
Graham King: Oh, all those moving pieces, all those actors, I mean, you have Jack Nicholson, then Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon, and Mark Wahlberg, and everyone wants to get attention from Martin Scorsese (laughs). It was really tough. The screenplay was complicated. We called it the cell phone movie. That was, by far, the hardest. So from that, you come down and look at other projects with the attitude, if I can do that, I can do anything. This movie in London we're doing. It reminds me of Gangs of New York. We've created a world in Shepperton Studios. We've recreated the Gare Du Nord train station, in Paris, to scale...
Graham King: Oh yeah, from the 1930's, it's the most amazing set I've seen. It reminds me of Gangs of New York because we built five miles of sets for that movie to recreate New York City in Rome. When you're working with Martin Scorsese, it's all authenticity. And for me as the producer, the sets, the cast, everything, if we can get a good collaboration together, then you're on a winner. If everyone is on the same page, if you're all fighting to get to the same spot, then you can see the finished product. I've been lucky to do most of my films with the same people. You can get the chemistry going when you have Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Martin Scorsese You already know going in what everyone wants.