This interview is the property & courtesy of CHUD.com
By Smilin' Jack Ruby
This coming Friday, the much-heralded, but little-seen (as
yet – due to no junket) Equilibrium hits theaters marking two weeks
back-to-back where science fiction has made a return to big screens in
a big way. I'm not talking about an action movie like Minority
Report that used sci-fi as a backdrop, but real science fiction –
future-thinking films that have something to say – and their return is
truly a good thing for sci-fi fans.
Equilibrium is a great movie that focuses on a futuristic
society where people are completely controlled by a drug called
librium, which people must self-inject throughout the day. The
drug is a reaction to the warring nature of mankind, which has
threatened to pretty much destroy the planet. Cultural expression
and free thought are seen as responsible for such violence acts and
thereby is repressed - the repression of which is enforced by highly
trained Grammaton Clerics who seek out resistors who still read,
contemplate art, or try to advance themselves through artistic pursuits.
On top of that, it's an action
spectacle, with some truly startling choreography involving a type of
martial arts dubbed "gunkata" – a fighting style born out of aggressive
statistical analyses of gun battles that teaches its practitioners how
to enter a fight, analyze where the other fighters are and what they
will do next, and then react with a perfectly orchestrated defense.
In other words, these guys pretty much can wipe out a room in a
Kurt Wimmer, the writer/director of Equilibrium took some
time to talk with us about the making of the movie, the writing of it,
the thoughts behind it, and what it's like to have a really good movie
coming out in a really packed holiday season o' films.
Without further ado, here's Kurt...
Smilin' Jack Ruby: Nowadays, guns are really romanticized in
films, gangsters are portrayed as using guns as status symbols, etc.,
but in Equilibrium, in a society where there is no feeling and guns
would not be romanticized in the least bit, how does a martial art like
gunkata come about? How did you come up with it yourself?
Are guns just another tool? Also, from your own upbringing as a
military brat and being around guns your whole life, how does that
influence how you feel about guns?
Kurt: Well, like Snoop Dogg says, I've got fifty guns and I
love all of them the same – bang bang. With regard to the gun's
relationship to society, I mean, it would certainly, absolutely be a
tool. What I based the Grammaton Clerics on was sort of a
cross-section of a number of the aesthetic warriorhoods that existed
throughout history like the mamluks who were slave warriors and were
often castrated, which is not to say they felt nothing, but there were
certainly some things they didn't feel. They certainly had an
altered emotional state and they Knights Templar, the Teutonic knights
– you know, people who had taken an aesthetic religious vow and are
really, purely "Warriors of God." Most relevantly, of course, are
the samurai and their Bushido code. Obviously, the samurai were
required at a moment's notice to commit seppuku if the shogun ordered
it and in order to do that, you have to have a certain dispassionate
take, I believe, on the material world. You'd have to assume that
these people looked at their weapons as essential and integral tools of
the trade. Does that answer your question?
S.J.R.: Somewhat. In a
society where there could be any number of "tools" brought to the fore
to have a martial arts based on, why were guns selected?
Kurt: I would have to say – because I
would be guessing – because this film really is a parable, sort of a
fairy tale, I don't really draw any historical evolution around it as
though you could trace it back to the beginning of time, man's
emergence from the rift valley, but if I had to say, I would say that
it is part and parcel of this particular story. I would say guns,
on one hand, simply because they're the most effective. Even
though, of course it's not real, hopefully Preston demonstrates that in
the course of the movie that with a gun, going down a corridor, he's
infinitely more effective than a guy with nunchucks going down the same
corridor, but using a very similar kata philosophy.
S.J.R.: What about your own
background? You said you were a military brat and thereby were
obviously around it...what branch was it?
Kurt: My father was in the Air Force. Yet, we weren't
gun fanatics, but my dad owned a couple of guns and he taught me how to
shoot and I have – I wouldn't say a romantic love for guns – but I
certainly respect guns and I think they're very cinematic, too. I
think that's why Cameron in Aliens used gunpowder ballistics rather
than lasers a'la Star Wars because guns are just incredibly visceral.
S.J.R.: To round out the "gun"
questions, when guns began making their way around the world at the
turn-of-the-century, they were seen by samurai and practitioners of
martial arts as cumbersome. Using a sword was a skilled technique
– guns were lazy. Guns were easy. When creating gunkata,
did you consider at all the way guns used to be regarded versus what's
in the movie – a sort of natural evolution?
Kurt: I didn't, honestly, take that
into consideration. The Grammaton Cleric is an order that is very
spare – they take the shortest distance between two points and I think
they like to optimize their efficiency in any given situation and they
did their research and figured the gunkata was the best thing to
do. I have to qualify, going back to what you said before – the
gunkata is the focus of the Grammaton Cleric's techniques, but they are
clearly versed in other things including swordfighting and, by the way,
if I were to ever do a sequel – which is highly unlikely (laughs) – I
promise you, they'd be using a lot of other things, too. They can
pretty much use anything that comes into their sphere of influence,
because from birth they're trained in a Cleric monastery to be warriors.
S.J.R.: When you started writing Equilibrium, were you
trying to say something about man awakening to emotions, did you say
you wanted to do something about what it would be to have a future
society governed by this kind of dispassionate warrior, or did you say
you wanted to do something about this kind of society like a 1984, like
a Fahrenheit 451?
Kurt: It was a really personal
story. I had gone to art school and after my four-year career
there, I was completely disillusioned and I actually came out despising
art because I made the mistake – in retrospect – of associating the
people that I had met there, who I really didn't have much respect for,
with the product that they created. I was taken aback that every
single person that entered art school picked up a brush or a piece of
clay and pronounced themselves an artist. I was always under the
impression that artists – real artists – were very, very few and far
between and that it was not a title that could be self-given. It
could only be given by society at large or by posterity. I came
out of this experience changed and I had no desire or interest in art
whatsoever. I was really shut off. I shut myself off
expressively, too, and I just started writing and all I wrote about was
ideas. I also sort of had an open contempt for art. I went
out of my way to prove it, too. So, this was the state I was in
for several years and then I got married and my wife, who you met,
she's Latina and she's stubborn and this didn't sit too well with
her. She started chipping away at this rigid indifference that I
had and then we had kids. If you're going to choose to relate to
your kids, you have to really, really open up, I think. You
really have to find and understand the emotional plane that they exist
on. Logic and ideas don't enter into their world at all.
Also, simultaneously with this, I started writing The Thomas Crown
Affair, which is about a man who is extremely passionate about art and
in doing so, I found myself visiting a lot of museums for research and
reviewing a lot of the stuff I'd learned in school. I was just
blown away by how good some of the stuff I saw was. I had really
talked myself into believing it was all shit. It was a complete
awakening for me. It was really profound – a sort of connection
over the years occurred and it just suddenly really, really hit me, as
it never had before, that the world is made up of emotional connections
and it's not founded on ideas at all. In a sense it was, for me,
like a personal failure of communism as an idea. It sounds great
on paper, but in the real world, it just doesn't work because it
disregards the human emotional element. I experienced that on the
first level and I really wanted to tell that story and I thought it was
a story that was quite so specific to me because it was pretty much all
the guys I knew who were exactly like me and I thought – in fact, I
knew – this was a state that our society in a way, famously
encouraged. So, I thought it was a story that people could relate
to. I thought women would be able to relate to it, too, because I
thought women would like to see a male taking what is a fairly
sensitive journey especially in the context of what a lot of people
call a sci-fi action film. So, once I had decided that I wanted
to communicate this, I had to sit down and try to find a framework to
construct this story in...
Before we get too far away from it, can you tell me if there was a
particular piece, if you remember, that particularly struck you?
Kurt: It was a lot of things, but I particularly remember
standing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art looking at Van Gogh's...I
don't remember exactly the title, but it was his portrait of cypress
trees (S.J.R. Note: Entitled, with great originality, "The Cypress
Trees") and I was just blown away by the visceral nature of the
textures on the canvas.
S.J.R.: Behind glass or was it one
you could get close to?
Kurt: It was behind glass, which also amazed me. I was
tempted to lick it just to say I had, but I decided not to because I've
never licked anything worth millions of dollars before.
There's still time. Moving back into telling this as a
Kurt: So, after thinking about it, it occurred to me that
this paradigm of a dystopic society would be a good one to tell this
story in because then I could groom out all the contemporary reality we
know and replace it with a reality of my choosing. It's very
clean, pure and simple, also it wouldn't have anything getting in the
way of the narrative.
S.J.R.: We've seen societies like this in other sci-fi
stories – not the emotionless society – but a future society made so by
technological advances. If you remember, what was the first time
you encountered something like that in film or fiction? And now,
with Equilibrium in 2002, why do you think science fiction continues to
portray the future as oppressive?
Kurt: First of all, I can't say the first time I became
familiarized with dystopic/utopian societies. Actually, I think
"utopian" and "dystopic" mean the exact same thing because there's
always this inner belief that utopia is impossible, so there must be
something wrong with it. But, I do remember reading Brave New
World as a child and when I was very young, seeing Truffaut's
Fahrenheit 451, none of that stood in my way, however, of adapting this
paradigm to tell my story because in my opinion, it is, in a strange
way it suffers by comparison only because not enough of these films
have been made, because to me, it's no different than the sci-fi "time
travel" paradigm, which is done repeatedly, over and over again or
parallel universes. Take your pick. To me, it's simply an
empty structure to allow us to tell different stories – for instance,
Orwell was discussing socialism in England at the time in 1949 or
Bradbury was commenting on McCarthyism. These political issues
don't apply now. However, for me, there is a relevant political
issue that does apply. It was not my central motivating force for
making this film – for telling the story, I should say, but the ideas
are certainly in there. It's part of the backdrop. That is
the growing trend – almost tsunami – of emotional oppression that I see
in our country today. It's no accident and I hope it's obvious,
but sometimes I think it's not, that contraband is rated EC-10 in the
film, which is a thinly-veiled reference to NC-17 and the fact that
they're burning 35mm film. To me, films are emotional drugs and
we take these emotional drugs to manipulate our neurochemistry and to
make ourselves feel what we want to feel and it bothers me that the
MPAA is crushingly reducing the bandwidth of feelings that they think
we can handle feeling. There's so many more things that I want to
experience and the ratings system has gone out of control. It's
obviously not just there, it's an oppression taking place across the
board whether it be in hip-hop or Chris Ofili not being permitted to
exhibit his work in the Brooklyn Museum of Art – these are relevant
issues that have nothing to do with Fahrenheit 451. They have
nothing to do with Brave New World. They have nothing to do with
1984. But they have everything to do with contemporary
society. So, that's how I feel this world's story differs from
those and is a relevant, reasonable tale to tell today.
S.J.R.: But is that something you can walk into Dimension
Films and say you want to make a movie about starring Christian
Bale? Or do you say you have an action film and just put
everything else in as well?
Kurt: Well, they don't know it's there. I mean, I'm
pretty sure nobody there has any idea that...I'm not sure they paid
close enough attention to know that contraband is rated EC-10 or
anything like that. They responded to the basic emotional story,
which is what they should have. That's the real story – that's
the core. I would never suppose to set out to tell a political
story, because I'm not that kind of person for starters. Once you
do that, you're preaching and once you do that, I think, you're
dead. It's really only a human journey that can carry anybody
through the story and these other things – like the ratings system or
self-medication – these are footnotes in the larger picture.
The thing that really struck me in the film was Preston's "awakening"
when he first hears music after being off the Librium for a few hours –
you can couch it as an action film, but Dimension had to see things
Kurt: No, that's not what I mean. Anything that might
be seen as political, I'm pretty sure they're unaware of, but that's
the journey of the character, which is a man who hasn't felt anything
who in the space of a few days goes to feeling everything there is to
feel and being like a raw nerve – that's the story they responded
to. And that seen you bring up is the central axis of the whole
film. So, yeah, they were entirely aware of that.
How did you come up with the musical piece for that? How many
other things did you think about to make that point that didn't end up
in the movie?
Kurt: For that scene specifically?
He has other ones in the movie – feeling the handrail, etc. – but that
one in particular, yes.
Kurt: That scene was the first one that I came up
with. I had to reverse engineer it from there, but the fact of
the matter is, that scene was easy for me to write because I've heard
the first movement to Beethoven's Ninth, I can't tell you how many
times and now that I've made the movie, how many times more. It
still has a really visceral effect on me and I just imagined what that
would be like to someone who hadn't heard that before.
Though you're primarily known as a screenwriter, you had directed a
film before – but this was a much larger scale movie. Was there
ever any question about whether or not you would be directing it?
And who kept Dimension from possibly saying, "No, you're not?"
Kurt: Well, it's interesting
because I was actually fired off the first film that I directed.
I directed about half of it and then I got fired. It's called One
Man's Justice. They never really explained why. If I had to
guess why, I would probably say "profound incompetence." But all
I know is that one of the producers thoughtfully took over the
directing chores and completed the film. As a side note, although
I can't go back and watch that film because it's too painful for me,
but for anyone who's interested, it's probably very interesting to go
back and watch that film and try to decipher who shot what because it's
a very schizophrenic directing style. With that under my belt, it
would only – in the long run – make it more difficult to A: ever direct
again – even though that was a very low budget, straight-to-cable
film. Fortunately, my good friend and producer Lucas Foster – who
I first showed this script to...by the way, when I wrote this script,
it was just something that was in my queue of scripts to write.
It had been bugging me for several years and I just had to write it,
basically, to get it out of the way. I wrote the first draft in
under a week and I said, "Okay, that's done. I got it out.
I can move on to other things." But at some point, several months
later, I happened to show it to Lucas and he actually really liked
it. It surprised me. I didn't think it was commercial at
all. He thought we could put it together vis-à-vis a Dutch tax
deal that was made possible through his association with the person he
was producing with at the time, Jan de Bont. And those things are
always predicated on domestic deals so we went to Dimension and they
said they wanted "the world," so that's how they ended up seeing
it. But in any case, Lucas supported me from the very beginning
and he never questioned it. And no one else ever questioned it
either, interestingly enough, which kind of surprised me. Of
course, I never advertised the fact that I'd done this low-budget film
that I'd gotten fired off of, I was just always waiting for someone to
bring it up. Nobody ever did. That was one of those bodies
in the trunk in a closet and I was just waiting for somebody to open up
the trunk and they didn't. It was amazing to me that nobody ever
questioned that I should direct the film. In fact, Dimension, to
my surprise, fully and instantly embraced the idea and so did all these
very fine actors that I was privileged to work with. They never
questioned it and they gave me their complete trust. I don't know
how I got so lucky.
You said you wrote the first draft in a week, but the movie is very
design-heavy. How much of that was in your imagination when you
wrote the first draft and how much of it was stuff you suddenly had to
come up with and how much of it was stuff brought to you by your
Kurt: In terms of the look of the world, zero of it was in
my mind when I wrote the draft. When I wrote the draft, it was
just pie-in-the-sky. The real estate on the blank page is free –
fill it with whatever you want – and I did. Only when it came
down to the brass tacks reality of making the film for not much money
that that had a tremendous determining effect in how the film would
look. I couldn't build it digitally and I couldn't build it in
reality. I had to find a place where it kind of already
existed. Once I had done that, then I brought on the production
designer, Wolf Kroeger. We took our cues from the larger props in
the world that we already had and had to use like Hitler's Olympic
stadium and the sort of Speer-ian architecture that was popular back
then. I also drew heavily on the work of (Hugh) Ferriss, a sort
of mid-century futurist whose drawings I really like. So, I
already had that stuff pre-established. When Wolf Kroeger came
on, he was completely in agreement with me. Once you have those
two points, you can triangulate and everything else falls or should
fall within the parameters of that triangle.
S.J.R.: Do you think that because of the lasting impact
of Albert Speer, you could make a movie 100 years from now utilizing
his designs and people would still see it as "totalitarian?"
Kurt: Yes, I do, but I don't necessarily know if it's
because of the associations we have with his work, so much as the fact
that he was obviously tremendously talented and he realized the task at
hand very well, which was to create – I've never been to Moscow, but I
understand the architecture there is very similar, but not the
style. It functions in similar ways – to create an architecture
that artistically, expressively excludes the individual by dent of its
sheer size and its lack of finish. There is no human flourish
that decorates it. It's all incredibly sheer and towering and it
simply says: "The Dispassionate State." It says it very
well. I could be wrong, but I think it's one of those things that
just sort of speak to some fundamental element of human nature.
S.J.R.: When production got underway, what was the budget forEquilibrium?
Kurt: Well, when we originally started, we were going to
make it in Holland. We figured we could make it for $16
million. After we got it to Dimension, we had slightly deeper
pockets, but it was basically trench warfare. I mean, we'd gain
two feet and then we'd lose two feet the next day. Eventually,
over this grueling period of nine months, we got them up to $19 million
and then during production, it crept up to $20 million – so that was
S.J.R.: A lot of the action sequences look like they
might've taken a lot of time and planning in the pre-production – but
how much time did you get to choreograph the fight sequences?
Kurt: I wish I'd had time in the pre-production – maybe we
had a week. It really was a question of money. We didn't
have the money to bring the coordinator out. I think he came out
two weeks before production started. Believe me, he had his hands
full with other things rather than choreography. His name is Jim
Vickers and he had to hit the ground running.
S.J.R.: Is he who designed what we see as "gunkata?"
Kurt: Well, you know I came to him with the gunkata and I
remember that I demonstrated to him the gunkata. I worked out the
gunkata. I said, "This is what I want to do and this is how it
works." Everybody looked at me like I was really fucking crazy
and I felt really silly doing it, too, I have to say though I didn't
show it. So, to be honest, it just depends on where you look in
the movie. There are some things that were, this is how it's done
and we just did it that way and there were other things like when
Christian's going down the hallway at the end where I said, "Give me a
sequence" and then we worked it and refined it more on the day.
S.J.R.: On sequences like that, do
you think there's a certain spontaneity that comes from choreographing
on the fly or do you think that's a joke?
Kurt: Nope, I don't think it's either. I don't
think it comes from being on the fly, but I don't think it's accidental
either. We knew what we wanted and I think it would've been
better if we'd had more time to be totally honest. We could have
made it a lot better had we had more time – equally if Christian had
had more time. Like the stuff in the hallway – Christian learned
it that day while we were setting up the shot. So, I look forward
to when I can have the time to do it right. I mean, there's some
crazy stuff. It still amazes me to this day the gun-butting
scene, the scene where he beats those eight guys to a pulp with his
guns. We shot that in a half-hour, no exaggeration. We had
no choice. We had to shoot the whole thing in a half-hour.
If I'd had three hours or half a day or a whole day, which I needed, it
would've looked a lot better, I think.
S.J.R.: It's funny to hear you say that as I thought it was
an expertly done sequence, actually...
Kurt: Thanks. It looks decent and I'm grateful for
that. By luck and the fact that Christian's so good. We
didn't have time to shoot it.
S.J.R.: How long was the shoot and did it go pretty smoothly?
Kurt: 54 days and yeah, it went smoothly. We never got
behind except it was brutal. We were moving very quickly.
For a lot of the action, we only had one take because anything that
required squibs – there was just no time to do any re-set on
them. That's why it was great that Christian brought such a
tremendous talent to remember moves and execute them on the first
take. There's so much pressure. I can't tell you – I stress
to everybody – how hard that is. There's no way I could fucking
do that. People spend three hours setting something up and you've
just learned these moves. It's not part of the muscle
memory. It's all intellectual. You've got to do it.
You've got to do it fast. You've got to do it on the first take
and it's got to be in sync with the squibs. You've got this
moment where you're counting down with everybody and the 1st A.D.
shouts, "Quiet on the set – roll sound" and it's like counting
down. It all comes down to you. All eyes are on you.
And then, he nailed it every time.
S.J.R.: Did he have a lot of action
Kurt: I don't think he has any real action training. I
think he took maybe a couple of weeks of judo for American Psycho or
something like that, but I believe – and forgive me, Christian, if this
is not accurate – but I believe that he's a tap dancer.
S.J.R.: That makes sense. When you get all this done
and it's all in the can, when is this, Fall of 2000?
Kurt: We finished shooting December 10th of 2000.
S.J.R.: How much effects work did you have to do beyond the
establishing shots of the city?
Kurt: There's a lot of 2-D work in the film. We zoom
in to an eyeball, etc., which took us quite a long time to get
right. A lot of muzzle flashes, too.
S.J.R.: But nothing that would take a year's worth of
post-production or something like that?
S.J.R.: Did you do those effects in Germany or here?
Kurt: We did it all here. The 2-D stuff was spread out
over a number of different boutiques all over town whereas our 3-D
stuff was done by a house called Digital Firepower.
S.J.R.: Who was the editor on this, had you worked with him
before, and was there ever a time where the producers or Dimension came
in and did a cut of their own?
Kurt: No. They were very
good. They never got in my way at all. They let me make, in
every sense aside from the restrictions of budget, the film that I
wanted to make, so where it succeeds, I'll take the credit and where it
fails, I have to accept the credit. I was in the editing room
every second. There was never a second of editing done where I
wasn't stalking like a hawk. The original editor's name was Tom
Rolf who is an Oscar winner for The Right Stuff and he had worked with
(producer) Lucas (Foster) before on Dangerous Minds, so they knew each
other. It was one of the few people that Lucas knew that he
brought on. We worked on it for awhile and he left to go cut
Windtalkers and it was actually the best thing that ever happened to me
because then I promoted his assistant, a young fellow named William
Yeh, and we went back and tore the whole film apart, every single
scene, and put it back together frame-by-frame. We really changed
the film and that's where I really learned to cut a film. William
and I definitely gave it the life it has today.
S.J.R.: How many minutes did you lose while making it more
kinetic, more dynamic like that?
Kurt: Well, it's hard to say because there are so many
different versions of the film and every one of them loses a little
bit. I believe the initial assembly was two hours and twenty-four
to twenty-five minutes long. Then the first cut I showed to
Dimension was an hour and fifty-two minutes long. At one point, I
had it down to ninety-six minutes and then it went back to one hundred
S.J.R.: When did you first show it to Dimension?
Kurt: I showed it to Dimension in March of 2001, which was
at the end of my ten weeks director's cut.
S.J.R.: What was their reaction?
Kurt: Sober. It was a terrible experience, I have to
say. We sat down and we watched it in a screening room in New
York and it was Bob (Weinstein) and Andrew (Rona) and they'd recruited
some of their shills from Dimension and Miramax and it was a curious
experience in the dead of winter and they're watching this somewhat
bleak film. It was very incomplete, although I didn't necessarily
realize that at the time. Nobody makes a sound in the film during
the whole film. And it's a really depressing experience.
Nobody says anything except Bob who was kind enough to say, "Great
work, Kurt" at the end. But, it had a hollow sound to it.
They were very supportive, but one thing I realized was with those
kinds of audiences, you're always at a disadvantage because nobody is
going to commit to a reaction until the boss has spoken. Then we
went out and screened what was essentially that version of the film –
maybe it was an hour and fifty minutes – for a test audience and we got
a very different reaction to my infinite relief.
S.J.R.: Where was it first test screened?
Kurt: The first test screening was in Edgewater, New Jersey.
S.J.R.: Miramax's testing ground.
Kurt: Their usual suspect testing ground. But those
are my peeps now because I tested four times there and I love them!
S.J.R.: It tested throughout the summer of 2001?
Kurt: No, I tested it in the spring and directly thereafter
– probably in April of 2001.
S.J.R.: Did they have a release date already in mind?
Kurt: At the time? In their heads – no. I mean,
they had discussed releasing it as early as say, June of 2001 at one
time. But, it didn't work it. Then it was October, then it
was spring of 2002 and then the slate was so jammed with blockbusters
at that time that they decided to hold off. Then their foreign
commitments required them to release it by the end of this year, which
is why they're playing hurry-up and releasing now.
S.J.R.: What is it like for you to have
them sit on the movie for a year and a half?
Kurt: Well, I locked it in February of this year, so they
haven't been sitting on it for a year and a half. They have been
sitting on it for ten months, though. It some sense it's good
because then it gives me time – instead of them releasing it
immediately – it gave me time to stockpile new material that I wanted
to make so that, theoretically, when the film came out, I would have
something to show. It's bad, of course, because the second
something goes on the shelf, people assume that it's really bad and
it's really hard to ever overcome that.
S.J.R.: So what do you think of the December 6th date?
Are you just happy to see it finally coming out?
Kurt: I'm resigned. If they have to get it out by the
end of this year, December 6th is probably the best date. It's
not a great date, but I'm happy at the end of the day that they made my
film. I'm the luckiest guy in the world. They bought my
script – I'm lucky. And then they made my film – I'm lucky.
That they let me direct – I'm quadrupally lucky. That they let me
direct it without interference, I'm infinitely lucky. So, I would
feel kind of bad complaining about getting boned on a release date or
the size of the release at this point, although I still will complain
about it. (laughs)
S.J.R.: On the flipside of that, do you think the movie will
eventually get "seen" and "discovered," even if it isn't in the initial
Kurt: Well, first of all, thank God for DVD. I mean,
it's really changed the life that movies have after release. It's
not only that, it's also changed peoples' respect for those movies,
because they can see them more in the way they were intended to be seen
and it's changed the studio's respect for those films because it
generates real money in the after-markets. Now, it remains to be
seen, of course, whether the populace at large will ever really see or
like this movie, but I've always been of the opinion and never thought
for an instant that people wouldn't see and respond on some level to
this film. I don't know why I thought that, but I guess if I
hadn't thought that, I couldn't have really committed myself to making
that. You have to think that way if you're going to make the
film. So, we'll see.
S.J.R.: Did you write The Farm (now The Recruit) in the
middle of all of this?
Kurt: I was in the process of writing The Farm when I sold
EquilibriumThe Farm for quite a long time time – maybe eight or nine
months – and I was working on it all the way up to my first week of
pre-production in Germany. I remember working on it in a hotel
room there at night. and I was working on
S.J.R.: Was that ever anything you were going to direct?
Kurt: No. That was going to be a big film. I
never really directed anything else, so there was no chance, no
discussion of me ever directing that.
S.J.R.: What was your first experience
with science fiction and why do you feel certain stories are just
better suited to the realm of sci-fi?
Kurt: Yeah, I do. I got my love of science fiction
from my father and my grandfather, both of whom are huge, huge science
fiction fanatics. They were always very well-versed in science
fiction and always reading it and they were always willing to talk
about it around the dinner table so science fiction has always been a
part of my life. I can't remember when I first was aware it
existed – it always existed. I can't say whether science fiction
provides a better proscenium for telling these stories than some other
forum, but I think it provides a very good one because, as I think you
noted, the film is a parable – a fairy tale, at the end of the
day. It's good to be able to say, "In a galaxy, far, far away..."
in order to tell these stories because it allows us to tell them
cleanly and it allows us to get rid of contemporary reality.
There is no George Bush. There is not bin Laden. There is
no American Revolution. None of that plays into it, so you can
create your own logic that will allow you to very cleanly tell the
story that you want to tell.
S.J.R.: Have you always had a fascination for samurai and
that code of honor as well?
Kurt: Well, everybody's fascinated by the samurai and I want
to meet those people who are not and punish them because they were an
extraordinary group. They knew how to kick ass, but I have to
say, the most fascinating thing about the samurai is the whole
tradition of seppuku which happened a lot more frequently than people
realize. They really set themselves apart from any other
tradition that's ever existed because of that.
S.J.R.: You mentioned a possible Equilibrium sequel.
Is that strictly a financial decision on the studio's part whether
that's going to happen?
Kurt: I'll bet you money they'll make a second one.
It'll probably be straight-to-video, I don't know, but they're not
thinking of it now, but I'll bet you they will and it'll be horrible.
S.J.R.: But your involvement will be nil?
Kurt: Yeah, I have no interest. It's one of those
things that I don't think requires a sequel. The ideas I like in
the movie, I will take them and I will continue them – maybe not quite
so specifically, but there's a whole history and depth to the gunkata
that I didn't even get to scratch the surface of in Equilibrium because
I just didn't have the time or the money to do it, but I have just so
many ideas that I think are super-cool that are based in that sort of
realm that I want to put in a number of films.
S.J.R.: What is it about showing
action and fight choreography on screen that makes you want to keep
working in this genre?
Kurt: I don't
know. For me, it just grabs my balls. It just grabs them
and it's like going over the top of the roller coaster and sending them
up in the back of my throat and I just love that feeling. I love
it when I'm watching it and when I'm watching it, there's just no
better drug for me – there's no place I'd rather be. I love being
in the editing room and trying to create it, too. It's like
trying to capture lightning in a bottle. I love action the same
way I love dance on film. I think film was made to shit dance and
in the same way I think film was made to shoot action because I believe
they're one in the same thing. To me, there's a lot of distance
left to go in terms of refining and inventing the techniques that
really convey the visceral nature of the action on screen in terms of
the relationship of the camera to the action – the changing
relationship, I should say, to the camera to the changing action.