Diamonds and vengeance are a girl's best friend!
Director Michael Radford has been at the forefront of British independent cinema for the last twenty-five years. From "1984" to "The Merchant of Venice", Radford's accomplished filmmaking has been a top draw for the acting elite. His latest film, Flawless, is a particularly clever and well-acted diamond heist set in 1960's London. Demi Moore stars as a mid-level manager facing the glass ceiling at the world's most powerful diamond company. Disgusted at her lack of promotion, she becomes involved in a scheme to rob the diamond vault with the night janitor (Michael Caine). But money is not his motive as she becomes ensnared in a very elaborate act of revenge.
Demi Moore's character is quite demure throughout the film. Where you ever tempted to sex up her role a bit?
Michael Radford: There really wasn't. (laughs) That's a good and funny question because the thought never crossed my mind honestly.
There's that one scene where the Russian smacks her on the bum, but that was really the height of intrigue. I was a bit surprised there wasn't more sexual innuendo...
Michael Radford: You're quite right. There is the one scene of sexual innuendo where she's asked to flirt with the [Russian] guy by her boss. Although, I was hoping you'd get the sense that she was often asked to do that. You've probably put the finger on it. The film is Flawless, but that maybe that is the flaw. It's not a bad idea. I wish I had thought more about it. (laughs) I think you can only emphasize certain things...like the buttoned-up nature of her life.
Continuing on Moore, I was also surprised that she plays an American in London. Why not make her British, and was there any thought of casting an English actress?
Michael Radford: Give me the British actress who could have done it as well. Demi's also a major star and it helps when you're putting the film together to have a known name. Interestingly enough, there were a lot of Americans working in those multinational corporations at the time. Terry Gilliam, a good friend of mine, is a good example of someone who came over around that time...an American that became British. I could have had Demi play an English character, but I think there's something uniquely American about here. I felt that was right for her. I guess it might not have made a difference, but look at the last Woody Allen film Michael Caine made. I'm struggling to think of it...
Hannah and her Sisters?
Michael Radford: Exactly! Why is his character British in that film? In the world of cinema, you work with movie stars. And it does greatly depend on who is available the time you're making the film. You have a range of actresses and I think I was very lucky to get her. She's a major movie star, rang me up and said "I'd like to do this picture". I think the audience will accept it.
One of the things I like about your work is the subtlety between characters. There are quiet moments where many things are done, but not said. Do you chalk this up to your directing style, or is it the high caliber of actors you tend to work with?
Michael Radford: They all have the capacity to bring that to the table, but whether they use it or not is the question of the director. They have to trust you as a director. Many of these actors have careers, public images; which can be screwed over by a bad piece of directing. This makes actors very suspicious. Look at Al Pacino, it takes a long time to earn his trust. But an actor wants to be directed. They can't do it themselves. When they overact or act badly, they're not getting direction - so they take over the process. It doesn't work. You end up with a caricature as they fall back on their quirks, ticks, and mannerisms. That's the first thing. The second thing is that I, as a person, prefer subtlety. I don't like things spelled out for me. Maybe I over do it sometimes with too much subtext, but I prefer movies where the audience discovers something as opposed to being told it. Do you know what I mean?
I totally agree...
Michael Radford: One of my favorite things about this movie is the relationship between her [Demi] and Lambert Wilson. It's unspoken because he's so uptight, but he reveals so much quietly. For example, the scene where he's taking her fingerprints, that's all that was written about that scene. There's nothing on the page that would infer that something was going on between them. Why not use the scene as an opportunity for him to touch her? He doesn't need to fingerprint her himself. She knows this..he knows this...when he enters the room, she uncrosses her legs, shows her nylon stockings. And we know in that moment what he's thinking. There's a battle raging inside him that doesn't have to be spoken. These are the kinds of things that are the meat and drink of movies for me. When I see that...I get an orgasm of pleasure. (laughs)
A question about the philosophical undertones of the film, Joss Ackland plays the head of the diamond company. He's pretty much responsible for violence, poverty, oppression of people - women in particular. I believe he's referred to as the "de facto dictator of South Africa". This is a caper film about a diamond heist, but were you tempted to focus more on the evils being committed?
Michael Radford: Some people have criticized me for not exploring it more. A lot of what was going on then is still happening now, companies controlling the diamond industry and world politics at once. But we didn't want to use "DeBeers". I think it's wrong to go too far down that road. That's easily explored if you're interested. I was more focused on how they impinged on the world. This is the wider context. This is not a political film; it is an enjoyable caper movie. But yes, these are thugs dressed up, gangsters with class, and that's understood. I disagree that I should have been more political.
Michael Caine is brilliant in the film. I love how his true motivation and target are concealed until the end. His performance looks effortless...
Michael Radford: I would like to say it's me, but it really is him being effortless. I directed him, I gave him the arc of the story, but he comes so prepared. He comes to set with every single line memorized. He's got the character nailed from the beginning. It's quite a miracle to watch. My job is to make sure that I don't mess that about. We didn't have many discussions about it, but we did decide his character maybe completely crazy. And when I say 'crazy', I mean his character has been so hurt, he's absolutely crazy to even attempt it. He's been nurturing his revenge for so long.