An Exclusive Interview With Oscar-Winning Director Kevin Macdonald

An Exclusive Interview With Oscar-Winning Director Kevin Macdonald

Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald never stops, and we’re glad. Macdonald just finished shooting “Black Sea,” an adventure-thriller about greed starring Jude Law that’ll be out some time in 2014. Macdonald said 80 percent of the movie was filmed inside a submarine. The talented director recently signed on to direct an Elvis Presley biopic, “Last Train to Memphis,” which is being produced by Mick Jagger. It’s based on the bestselling book “The Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley” by Peter Guralnick. And yo, get this, the 20-year-old Elvis has not been cast yet, so if you want to play the gyrating king visit the casting website.

Macdonald’s current movie, “How I Live Now,” is a love story that takes place amidst a violent military state in the UK, and it opens this Friday. Macdonald said he’d always been drawn to making a serious film about the teenage experience and when he found one that featured a female lead and a love story — both firsts for him — he wanted in.


Despite Macdonald’s insane moviemaking schedule and raising three young kids at home, the director graciously agreed to a one-on-one interview with me for TheBlot Magazine.

Q: There were many special moments in your film “How I Live Now.” Which are your favorites?

Kevin Macdonald: It’s the performances of the kids, the little things they do that aren’t scripted. Like the way Harley Bird as Piper was sitting on the bed at the beginning and her response to seeing the goat in the hallway, or Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) watching the eagle with Eddie (George MacKay). When Daisy laughed with excitement, that wasn’t planned.

Was it more challenging to work with young actors?

No. They were a pleasure! Having so many kids around created a lovely atmosphere. I was 44 when I shot it, so quite distant from teenage feelings, and obviously I’ve never experienced what it’s like to be a girl, so I came to rely on them in different ways than when making a film about adults.

What would you like people to take away from the film?

I hope people see how unusual the story is. That’s what attracted me to the book. It’s a beautiful and disturbing story and very original. I hope viewers connect with the love story. It really is mostly a love story.

What part of filmmaking do you enjoy most?

I used to hate shooting and love editing. Because I come from making documentaries, I find that putting two pieces of film together — that you might not have expected together — is exciting. Now, more and more I enjoy shooting and working with actors. You can never learn everything about the psychology of working with actors and what’s truthful and what’s not.

What do you mean?

Are they being truthful to the character, truthful to the story? You’re always striving for human truth. You want people to believe the actor is that character. It has to seem truthful. It’s always about trying to get that from the actors.

Do you prefer making documentaries or feature films?

I like to change things up and do different sorts of movies. I am lucky enough to do documentaries and feature films. With documentaries you’re not working with a huge amount of money or actors and agents, so you can just chase ideas that really aren’t very commercial. With feature films you have to be responsible to a lot of people. If you’re supposed to be somewhere, you need to be there and on time.

Do you like to see violent thrillers?

I don’t like seeing violence just to be sadistic and unpleasant, but if violence is used in the right way it can be dramatically powerful and important to the story. Sometimes I’ve been to movies with graphic scenes and during those I’ve thought, “Oh, I don’t want to see that.” But I suppose people could say that about some of my movies.

Like the scene with the hooks in “The Last King of Scotland“?

Yes. [Laughs]

How did you approach the family when you wanted to make the documentary about Bob Marley?

I was honest and told them I wanted to make a warts-and-all film. I feel very positive about Bob Marley, but I didn’t want to make a glossy artificial portrait of him. There are things in the movie that don’t necessarily make him attractive but they are part of who he was.

What’s next for you?

I just finished shooting “Black Sea.” It was filmed on a real Russian submarine from the 1960s and most of it takes place inside the sub. I’ll start editing as soon as I get back to London. It’s a submarine thriller. The atmosphere in the submarine is intense and claustrophobic and it stars Jude Law as a captain of the sub.

What’s it about?

A bunch of Russian and English guys that used to be in the navy. They lost their jobs and are miserable and bitter. One hears a story about a ship with gold that was given to Hitler by Stalin as a bribe. The seamen go off to search for the gold in a World War II era U-boat. The film is about greed and love, and it’s sort of a modern version of the “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

“How I Live Now” opens nationwide and is available On Demand this Friday, Nov. 8. Rated R. 101 minutes.

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