Written and directed by Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash), Third Person tells three love stories about passion, trust and betrayal. In any relationship, Haggis said, there is always a third person present in some form.
Israeli actress Moran Atias, who starred in the TV series Crash and Haggiss 2010 crime drama, The Next Three Days, pitched the idea of a multi-plotline film about love and relationships to Haggis.
The three couples are played by Liam Neeson and Olivia Wilde; Moran Atias and Adrien Brody; and James Franco and Loan Chabanol. Francos characters ex is played by Mila Kunis. Mario Bello plays her lawyer, and Kim Bassinger plays Neesons characters wife.
A romantic drama was a big departure for Haggis, who has written about subjects as darkly charged as combat (Letters From Iwo Jima, Flags of our Fathers), wartime trauma (In the Valley of Elah), untimely death (Million Dollar Baby) and even 007 (Casino Royale). The emotional and psychological battlegrounds of love turned out to be the greatest challenge yet for the prolific writer-director, and the powerhouse all-star cast gives jaw-dropping performances.
TheBlot Magazine caught up with Haggis, Atias and Chabanol on Tuesday.
Dorri Olds: How long have you been making movies?
Paul Haggis: Ten years now.
How much of Third Person was autobiographical?
All of it.
No. [Laughs] What I do is I start out by asking questions in terms of relationships Ive had that failed, things that have worked mostly I failed. When I put people into stories, they will not recognize themselves. I explore different aspects about how I failed or how I couldve possibly succeeded if Id done something better. It is easy to look at the Liam Neeson character and say hes me.
He does explore a lot of things I do, especially about how damn selfish we are to be writers and how other people often pay the price for that selfishness. Thank God Ive never gone through a tragedy like he and the other characters go through, but I imagine myself there.
Its children that often pay the price for our selfishness. When I was 22, I moved to Hollywood. I was married and had a kid right away. I worked as a furniture mover and various other jobs for 10 hours a day. Then Id come home to my family and write for two hours at night. I think anyone who is considering pursuing a career seriously has to ask themselves questions. It is a very real guilt that I carry. The movie, though, is written in fictional form.
What inspired your idea for Third Person?
Moran Atias: The movie Crash, was an extremely impactful experience for me. I saw it on a plane to America. It profoundly affected me. Then the series came along, and I was cast in it. I love how life is so surprising and a little coincidence connects people.
How did you pitch the movie to Paul?
The elevator pitch was Crash for relationships, but then the pitch turned into a two-hour conversation where I told Paul I desperately wanted to develop a movie that questioned and explored dynamics between men and women, the fragile intimate relationship that we are so afraid to expose ourselves to. Its not just the person thats with us in the relationship its our demons, our past, our fear. Its not just you and me in a naïve way innocently getting to know each other. That would be so simple, wouldnt it?
Whats next for you?
Im currently shooting a very interesting American show in Israel. Its called Tyrant. Its a new FX show about a fictional family that governs in our country. It deals with some interesting questions like whether democracy can actually exist in the Middle East. Its also about relationships.
When can people see the Tyrant?
It premieres this Tuesday, June 24!
Did James Franco give you any tips while you worked closely?
Loan Chabanol: I learned a lot from him. He was great. Because James is also a director, hes really good at directing you even when youre acting with him. I think because he is a director who is also an actor, he has compassion and knows how you feel so he doesnt say, Do this. He says, Would you like to look at this? Its really nice. Hes done so many things, and for such a long time. I think hes really inspiring because he does so much in the arts teaching, painting. Im a painter myself. Ive been doing that since I was five.
How would you describe your character?
When I read the script, she represented love at the purest level you can imagine. She is true love with no condition. On the first take I made her more judgmental but Paul said, No. Cut, cut, cut. Hold on. Shes not judging. In that moment I really understood her strength. I thought wow, she is strength, love and hope. Shes almost a symbolic figure like a little Buddha.
Whats next for you?
I will be doing an action film, the next Transporter, number four. I cant talk about the script. I signed a paper. It is being produced by Luc Besson, and Im really excited. Im going back to L.A. where well start shooting in a week, and Ill be in France all summer until September.
Third Person opened Friday, June 20 in New York and Los Angeles. Drama. Rated R. 137 min.
Watch the “Third Person” trailer:
Tyrant starring Moran Atias premieres on FX Tuesday, June 24 at 10 p.m. Action thriller with political intrigue.
Watch the trailer:
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.