WHAT WAS IT ABOUT A MOST WANTED MAN THAT MADE YOU SIGN UP?
I was really interested in the world we live in, and the world after 9/11 had such an impact on the way we live; the polarisation of society, which has got even worse since we made the movie. Then of course it was the John Le Carre story: well written, very interesting, well researched. It was not that I wanted to do a John Le Carre book or a spy thriller, it was more the core story.
HOW DID YOU DIRECT SOMEBODY AS ACCOMPLISHED AS PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN?
He was such an incredible actor, the character was kind of formed after the first day on set. I met him 11 months before we were going to shoot and we talked quite a bit about the character. He was very anxious to get the accent right for him playing a German; it was his first European role. He’d been in a European film before, The Talented Mr Ripley, but he’d played an American in that, so it was quite a thing for him as well to play a European person and he looked at how other movies tackle this issue. When we had done a scene, when he wasn’t sure, instead of playback and looking at the stuff, sometimes he would listen to it, because that was of great concern to him, [to make it] believable.
GOING BACK TO YOUR EARLY WORK, WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF SHOOTING THE JOSHUA TREE ALBUM COVER FOR U2?
That was interesting for me because it was the first time I felt distance from my work. When these billboards went up everywhere, it was weird to think that I took that picture and developed it in my little dark room. It just became something else. I’m not going to say I’m used to it now, but the first experience is the strongest. Yeah, it was wonderful, but I used to be a photographer for magazines, so you would in a way react to the public image of people you had. Either you would go along with it, or you would show a different perspective on somebody.
ROCK STARS OR ACTORS - WHO ARE THE BIGGEST DIVAS?
Oh actors; there’s more insecurity. Musicians tend to have a good sense of who they are because they tend to write their own material; they dress themselves. They are artists looking for something, whereas [with] actors it’s a very different art form. They impersonate a character; they bring a character to life and they can be amazing at that, but when it comes to themselves, it’s all about the looks. If you look at a lot of magazines these days, it’s all about looks. That’s what sells, but for me the magic in the photography of musicians... you always find a different kind of beauty. That’s why I photographed so few women and models in the beginning because I never knew what to do with ‘obvious beauty’.
AS A DIRECTOR HIMSELF, DID GEORGE CLOONEY GET THE URGE TO TAKE OVER ON ‘THE AMERICAN’?
Yeah, of course there were moments like that, and he was the producer on the film - I was a very ‘beginning’ director, whereas he had a lot of experience. It was great. For action stuff and some other places in the film, he had really great advice. But sometimes I had a totally different opinion... but he did actually say ‘You’re right’ most of the time anyway. But my second film was the polar opposite of my first film [Control] - I wanted a very different experience to see what the film world was like. So it was Hollywood compared to independent filmmaking; colour versus black and white; fictional against biopic; American actor versus English actor, so a lot of deliberate choices. The book The American was based on was about an English man, but I really wanted to have an American, because I wanted that experience of working with an American actor.
DO SOME MOVIES RELY TOO MUCH ON OBVIOUS DIALOGUE RATHER THAN BEING PURELY CINEMATIC?
Oh very much so. There is always the tendency that that is what sells the film. Obviously The American was sold totally incorrectly; it has very little to do with me, but it’s found its audience only in the end through DVD.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEXT MOVIE, THE JAMES DEAN BIOPIC LIFE
Well it’s just finished, so I’m very happy because I made two movies back-to-back and I’m back home now. It’s interesting because it’s not so much that I was into James Dean but the idea of the film was the relationship between a photographer and a subject in the public eye, and I could relate to that very strongly. Plus, the movie plays in 1955, which is my year of birth so it was quite interesting to revisit that period. It’s a very nice story between these two guys and how the characters have an effect on each other. It’s a roundabout way of showing a biopic of James Dean; it only plays over a period of two weeks.
FINALLY, DO YOU FANCY MAKING A COMEDY ONE DAY?
I would like to; I would like a dark comedy, and [especially] if the comedy is much easier to do than film and photography.
:: A Most Wanted Man is out now on DVD and Blu-ray