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Entries in interview (190)

Friday
May202011

ISHTAR. Are There Second Winds in the Desert?

Elaine May at the 92Y

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to see Ishtar (1987) at a special event with writer/director/actress/funnywoman Elaine May. She's been out of the spotlight for some time. The last major hurrah was her hilarious supporting role in Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks (2000). Ishtar, for those that are unfamiliar, is an infamous big budget flop in which Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman star as a talentless musical duo who get mixed up with middle eastern politics via "terrorist" Isabelle Adjani and CIA agent Charles Grodin during a gig in Morrocco.

Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Isabelle Adjani in ISHTAR (1987). © Sony Pictures

If you lived through the 1980s you probably feel like you saw Ishtar even if you didn't it because it became an easy-target for comedians and the basis of a lot of schaudenfreude fun (look how the mighty fall!). The strange thing about seeing Ishtar two decades later is that it's actually really funny and it's hard to see exactly how it inspired such pop-culture hatred. Other than, perhaps, its prophetic satire about how fucked up the USA is whenever they're dealing with Middle Eastern dictators. In the movie the CIA sides with the dictator who wants to snuff out the apolitical singing Americans, before they accidentally inspire his overthrow by "left wing terrorists" (aka those who want democratic reform and human rights.)

The movie clues you in to its satirical naughtiness early on when Beatty & Hoffman try to write a song "Telling the truth can be dangerous business". May repeatedly praised Paul Williams for the song score of the movie -- 'even the crummiest songs had perfect music!' -- but she wrote "Leaving Some Love In Your Will" which is one of the movie's funniest bits as Dustin Hoffman sings a totally inappropriate song about death to two senior citizens on their wedding anniversary.

The movie was born in the imagination of Elaine May and Warren Beatty. They wanted to do a Bing Crosby Bob Hope "Road to" type of movies and US 1980s politics determined the setting. "We were of course in Afghanistan as we always are. We were all over the Middle East," Elaine May explained when she came out for a sit-down interview to talk about the rarely screened film.

She seemed quite pleased with the response to her director's cut.

Either you liked the movie or i'm very sick...

I thought it was funny which is a terrible thing to admit about your own movie. I think of those people who try out for American Idol and how sure they are of their own talent.

She wasn't very sick. The audience clearly liked the movie; there was consistent and at times raucous laughter. Sure, it was a self-selecting crowd. Chances are if you're showing up to see an infamous flop from a famous comedian you're probably either a member of the movie's cult following or a curious cinephile and either way you're a better audience for the movie than the audience it originally received. Or didn't as the case may be.

May shared a bizarre story about the movie's internal sabotage. There was a change at the top of the studio before the movie's release. The new head of Columbia Pictures was David Puttnam. He'd previously competed against Warren Beatty for the Best Picture Oscar (He won with Chariots of Fire beating Beatty's  Reds) and he was no fan of Beatty's. He badmouthed both Beatty and Dustin Hoffman publicly, equating them with spoiled brats, but didn't stop there.

Hoffman and Beatty have very real comic chemistry

May explained how they went from future hit to press target right before the movie opened.

We had three previews and they went really well. Thumbs up. On the day the press came an article came out in the LA Times in which Puttman wiped us out. 'We should be spanked. There was too much money.' He was going to reform Hollywood. It was really sort of unforgivable what he did. He attacked his own movie. Mike Nichols said it was like watching an entire studio committing suicide.

After that article in the Times nearly every press piece about the movie focused on how much it cost and attacked the movie for being grossly expensive, rather than focusing on the movie itself.

May was very funny in person, telling stories about her career (I'll share a few more quotes soon) and discussing this movie which killed her directing career (she hasn't helmed a feature since). The studio has told her that they will be releasing Ishtar on Blu-Ray in the near future. Perhaps it'll be rediscovered?

Earlier today someone said that they had read on the net that the impending DVD release of Ishtar had been delayed by 'my people'.  I was so thrilled to think that I had people! They're going to release this on blu-ray! If they don't you'll be the last people to have seen this movie.

If half the people who had made cracks about Ishtar had seen it, I'd be a rich woman today.

The Blind Camel is the film's comedic MVPThough much of the film's humor feels loose, character-oriented and improvised (it reminded me a smidgeon of Bridesmaids actually -- but maybe because I'd just seen the latter -- in the way it allowed its jokes to roam around and spring from the nuances of the performers and their chemistry) May says it wasn't and that great actors always appear to be spontaneous on the screen. She did note that much of the humor with Beatty's blind camel was improvised because there's no way to tell what a camel will do in a scene.

May joked that the camel was very hard to cast. He wasn't really blind. He just acted like he was. They chose well. They say you should never act with animals but two running gags about camels and vultures pay off big in the movie when the movie stars interact with them.

Given the movie's terrible reputation did the director just think Ishtar was a victim of itself, a movie that was too far ahead of its time? Elaine May had the last laugh at this special event in her honor.

I've never said that a movie of mine is ahead of its time. How is that even possible? Even with string theory.

Tuesday
Mar292011

Manuel Muñoz on Psycho, Nashville, and Movies as Inspiration

Interview
The Film Experience doesn't often push books upon you, but it's time for an exception. Manuel Muñoz's debut novel "What You See in the Dark" hits bookstores, virtual and otherwise, this week. While it is a work of fiction, it borrows from reality for its backdrop. The pre-production and eventual release of Alfred Hitchcock's immortal Psycho (1960) figure into the narrative in crucial and evocative ways and both The Actress and The Director in question are characters.

Consider this amazing "double feature"

Full Disclosure (as I always believe in such things): I met Manuel Muñoz at a poetry event about four years  ago and he introduced himself as a reader of The Film Experience. Though predisposed to rooting for him as a result (I'm only human!) we hadn't really kept in good touch. In the intervening years, I bought a copy of his second short story collection. Two months ago his first novel arrived in galley form and I ate it right up.  I think it's quite an amazing read.

Nathaniel: Before your beautiful novel, which we'll get to in a moment, you had two short story collections published. The first piece of yours I ever read was "Skyshot" which had an amazing Robert Altman thread. That really won me over. How did that story come about and has the cinema always inspired you creatively as a writer?

Manuel Muñoz: I was lucky enough to see Nashville on the big screen at the Brattle in Cambridge when I was in college. I was stunned by it, and it remains my favorite film (with The Piano a close second.) Altman's command of multiple character arcs enthralled me--it was the closest I'd seen a film parallel the possibilities of words on the page. He could shift magnificently and I loved that he could suggest interiority with camera movement: I was stunned when I realized the camera had crept up on Lily Tomlin as she listened to "I'm Easy." (He did the same to Ronee when she sings "Dues.")

At the time, I was coming to terms with identity and subject matter, so it confused me to be so attracted to a film like Nashville, which is far outside my experience.

Manuel Muñoz by © Stuart Bernstein

But I eventually thought of how often we use films to narrate our own lives. I've never sat at the back of a bar while in love with a performer on stage, but I've worn that look that Lily has on her face. Know what I mean?

Nathaniel: I think so.  But to the point on identity. I've always believed that specificity -- be it in sharply drawn characterizations or carefully observed milieus -- has a way of inverting itself so it's suddenly universal. I see that in your writing too as you're often dealing with the Chicano experience, which I have little connection to and yet it's totally alive for me.

I'm guessing this has a lot to do with an assured storytelling voice, one that's relaxed about the audience feeling whatever it is they're going to feel without forcing it upon them.

Read the full interview for more on Great Actressing, casting dreams, Psycho and unlikely inspirations.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb162011

The Interviews, Goddesses and Craftsmen Alike

A big "thank you" to readers who commented on the recent spate of interviews here at The Film Experience. We don't do too many of them but you've been quite complimentary about the ones you do get. If time allows and other variables improve this year we'll do more for 2011. But in case you missed any of the interviews covering the 2010 film year, here's the rundown:

AND THE OSCAR NOMINATION GOES TO...

Jenny Beavan, Costume Designer, (The King's Speech)
Roger Deakins
, Cinematographer (True Grit)
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, Editors (The Social Network)
Eve Stewart, Production Designer (The King's Speech)
Jacki Weaver, Actress (Animal Kingdom)

...FROM THE OLD BLOG: Four of Nathaniel's 100 favorite actresses in one calendar year? Too rich! And a couple of talented men for good measure.

Kirsten Dunst, Actress (All Good Things)
Alexander Desplat, Composer (The Ghost Writer, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
Javier Fuentes-Leon, Director (Contracorriente aka Undertow)
Juliette Lewis, Actress (Conviction)
Patricia Clarkson, Actress (Cairo Time)
Julianne Moore, Actress (The Kids Are All Right)

Beloveds: Juliette, Patty, God and Kiki


Who should we pursue relentlessly in 2011 until they're on the phone or grabbing a cup of joe?

Which Old Hollywood legend would you like to hear from?

Tuesday
Feb152011

Costuming Helena, Finding Sherlock, Winning Oscar

INTERVIEW
As one half of the first costuming team I ever noticed as a young movie fanatic, interviewing JENNY BEAVAN was a special treat. She's currently enjoying her ninth Oscar nomination for her work on The King's Speech. This is her third solo nomination. She and her former partner John Bright costumed the Ishmael Merchant & James Ivory period dramas that I grew up obsessing over: A Room With A View, Howard's End, Maurice and the like. When Jenny and I spoke to discuss her current Oscar run for The King's Speech, however, it was less period drama and more modern comedy. "I'm guessing as to what you're saying" she told me while technical difficulties had us both comically shouting into our phones / computers until the situation was resolved.

We began at the beginning.

Merchant/Ivory is after all, a very good place to start, both for a young film buff in the 80s and a costume designer embarking on a huge career in the movies.  "That was my start in the whole thing," Beavan recalled, noting that the films were great fun to do.

The Merchant & Ivory Days
John Bright's name was peppered throughout her conversation. In fact, she had just seen him earlier that day. I had long wondered why they stopped working together. "We were known as Jenny Bright and John Beavan," she says about their close partnership. "I mean, he is just one of my absolutely best friends and also my most important collaborator. Believe me we're still collaborating. Just not so officially."

As it turns out Bright owns and runs Cosprop, a hugely important costume house which specializes in period wear,  an enormous job in and of itself though he still does the odd film. I mention how much I love his work on the ravishing The White Countess (2005) with elicits a barrage of superlatives from Beavan. "Absolutely brilliant!" 

Howards End (1992), a masterpiece.

We discuss a particular moment in Howards End that I'm very fond of. The Schlegel sisters (Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham-Carter) walking home one evening run into Mr Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins). One can't get enough of the beauty of that movie. The clothes are so modest but there's such sensuality to them and something so resonant and bohemian about the sisters. Beavan credits the screenplay with the specificity that makes character costuming easier and the actresses with the film's modernity.

Beavan, having logged a lot of time in costume dramas, thinks there's real power with staying utterly within period. If you step away from the period, she explains "it looks wrong and then you get a sort of worry in the audience."  Producers, particularly the America ones, she shares, don't like to see hats in the movies. And sometimes you just have to use hats. "Everybody wore hats up until the 1950s in England!" she says with feigned exasperation.

My grandmother would never go out without a hat on. She wouldn't have felt dressed.

After the golden period of the Merchant/Ivory films, Beavan's official partnership with John Bright ended and  the designer got a chance to "fly a bit more my own." That's what one might call an understatement.

READ THE REST for thoughts on Helena Bonham Carter's style, "finding" Sherlock Holmes and more.

 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb102011

Interview: Roger Deakins, The Man With the Golden Light

Sometimes when prepping for interviews you can jot down film titles and pick a few key bits to ask about. Every filmography will yield a few rich areas for potential questions. But what to do when the filmography is so imposing. To read Roger Deakins filmography is to become lost, not in titles and potential avenues of discussion, but in images. It's hard to concentrate when your mind's eye flies from the white snow of Fargo to the shadowy menace of A Beautiful Mind's paranoid bits, to the rich color of Kundun, to the desolate dusty beauty of both Jarhead and WALL•E and on through hi recent string of westerns. And that's just scratching the surface of the images that the filmography calls to mind. In cinematography, Roger Deakins has few peers.

Roger Deakins and True Grit, which won him his ninth Oscar nomination

So, if I struggled for questions, it was still a treat to talk to a living legend. We started at the most logical place, his collaborative relationship with the Coen brothers. True Grit is their tenth film together. Since they began working together Deakins has rarely been absent (Burn After Reading was shot by Emmanuel Lubezki).

Nathaniel: You've been working with the Coen brothers since Barton Fink (1991). Obviously that's been a fruitful partnership. How did it start? 

Deakins: I met with them in London before Fink and their regular cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld had gone off to directing so they were looking for somebody.

Nathaniel: What convinced them then?

Deakins:  I think they'd seen Sid & Nancy and 1984. I think the variation in what I'd been doing was something they noticed, that they responded to.

[Note: Deakins career began with documentaries but by the mid 80s he was working in British features, often with the director Michael Radford. The Coen brothers weren't the first directors to monopolize his impressive visual gifts.]

Nathaniel: How early do the Coens bring you into each new project?

Deakins: Usually quite early but it depends on the project. In some cases i've been working on something else right up until they start shooting. For instance with The Big Lebowski, I didn't have much prep at all because I was off in Morocco doing [Martin Scorsese's] Kundun. Usually I like a lot of prep.

On True Grit we were scouting quite a lot before shooting. The more time you spend -- especially scouting and looking at locations and talking about the script -- it's time well spent. You get to understand what the director is really after.

Nathaniel: Obviously the relationship with the director is prime but what about the art directors. Do you have input into the sets? How much back and forth is there?

Deakins: Quite a bit, absolutely. It's a discussion really. Sometimes you need some adaption on a set. Even if it's a simple set, like where Rooster (Jeff Bridges) was bedding down in the back of the grocer's store. I just wanted a certain kind of light in that set and Jess Gonchor [nominated for Art Direction] came up with the idea of that type of window we used. It was cobbled together to facilitate the lighting that I wanted in there. It's a collaboration really to figure out how it's done. I have been on films where I've been on a set with no windows. You go well… [indicating frustration] There's no reason. It wasn't an aesthetic choice. The designer just didn't put any windows. That's restricting.

Nathaniel: One of the showiest bits in True Grit, in terms of your work is the courtroom scene early in the film. Do the Coens decide everything about camera placement and you're just working on the lighting?

Deakins: It does depend. The Coen's storyboard everything so actually the camera placement is worked out [before shooting]. But we've discussed it in prep and then they storyboard it. And we walk through the locations and talk about which angles might work and I talk about the way I can make the light feel in the room.  I remember in the courtroom we had this  discussion about where the witness stand would be and where the jury box would be within that space and it had a lot to do with the lighting that  I could bring to it for the final image.

Nathaniel: You've done quite a few westerns lately: No Country For Old Men, True Grit, The Assassination of Jesse James. Was that a conscious direction? Is it a genre you respond to visually?

Deakin: [Happily] It's a lot of luck! When Joel and Ethan were saying they were writing a script for No Country 'If we like it we might direct.' I said 'You've got to, you've got to!' I just thought it was such a wonderful piece and then to get the chance to do The Assassination... after that? I was really lucky.

Nathaniel: The Assassination of Jesse James is so focused on its images, too. Far more than your average movie.

Deakins: That was much more of a poem, a meditation on the period and character. A very different kind of movie. It came from the book. It's a historical book, a piece of history, but it's done in a lyrical way.

Nathaniel: When you get a project like that as a cinematographer, do you just start salivating? [Laughter]

Deakins: Kind of, yeah. When I read the book,  the original material -- Yeah absolutely, you die to do a film like that. The moods you can create, the mood it's demanding you create in the visuals. Andrew Dominick had such a firm idea of where he waned to go with that visually, how far he wanted to push it. It was quite a challenge and an exciting challenge.

Nathaniel: The movie is stunning. I'm curious about working with actors. Are they props to be lit or do they have input in how they're shot.

Deakins: Well I mean in terms of blocking and how the camera is recording what they're doing and interpreting, there is to and fro. It depends on the actor and the director and the feel of the set, the way that set works. It can be a collaboration.

Nathaniel: You read a lot of Old Hollywood stories about stars demanding to be shot in certain ways.  Like they're very invested in how they're shot and from only certain angles.

Deakins: I'm afraid I'm not very tolerant of that sort of thing! [Thinking about it...] It's a matter of trust. I think a big part of the cinematographer's job is creating a space where the actor feels comfortable to do their work. I don't want an actor to think i'm filming them in a ugly way. You do the best for them, there's trust both ways. They need to be able to trust you.

Nathaniel: How about more actor-focused films?  I'm thinking of films you've shot like Passion Fish or Dead Man Walking, those are very much performance pieces. Do you have to do more tests with the actors on films that are so focused on faces? Do you have to approach that differently?



Deakins: No, not really. I seem to remember we did quite a few tests with Sean Penn on Dead Man Walking just to get his look right and stuff. But it's not different. It's always about the performance. To me that's the most important thing. You have to give the actor space to do that. If you haven't got a performance you haven't got a film. It doesn't matter how pretty the images are, they mean nothing. It's really important.

And especially on something like Dead Man Walking which is a very intense piece you do really want to be in the background, in terms of the crew and how much you impose on the scene. It's a delicate balance really. It's still a visual medium so you have to do your part.

Nathaniel: I'm wondering if you enjoy a minimalist aesthetic?  To me, True Grit and Fargo both feel...

Deakins: It's interesting how minimalist True Grit is, isn't it? It was quite a complicated piece to do, really. It comes across as very simple in terms of composition and carmera movements.

Nathaniel: But do you personally like it sparse?

Deakins: I like simplicity but that whole idea  comes more from Joel and Ethan than from me. It's fueled by the script and their approach to it. The nature of this piece is the idea that it's this young girl's story. That's why it's so minimalist.

[Considering...] i think in terms of the development of what Joel & Ethan havebeen doing, the films have become more minimalist camera wise. Certainly more minimalist than what we were doing on The Hudsucker Proxy. It's not immaterial but the camera was much more a character within it. Whereas … well it's the material. You don't want the camera to be a character in something like True Grit. It really is in the background.

Nathaniel: What about Fargo? Was it hard to shoot snow since it's so reflective?

Deakins: The hard thing about Fargo is we didn't have any snow! A lot of the snow had to be manufactured. It was a really cold winter but it was one of those winters that was so cold that it didn't snow. Arctic air. It was frustrating.

Nathaniel: Lately you've had this little diversion into animated films. You've been consulting...

Deakins: Yeah, it's interesting isn't it? It's becoming a bit more than a diversion, actually. It's a full time thing I do now. Between doing live action films i'm actually working at Dreamworks. It came about first -- Pixar asked me do a couple of seminars about lighting. It sort of developed. Andrew Stanton asked me to get involved in WALL•E . That was only really at the beginning just conceptually talking about it and, how to bring the feel of live action movie to the film, the way the camera moves and interprets the action. I talked to them about lighting and the mood of the thing. After that Dreamwoks, asked me to get nvolved in How To Train Your Dragon. I was involved in that all the way through for 14 months going up there regularly.


Nathaniel: I guess my choice of words was way off, then. It's not a diversion.

Deakins: It's not, really. It's a really interesting aspect of what I can do. It really is that I'm a visual consultant. They do it all but I go in and talk to them and exchange ideas. It's really fun. The two disciplines of animations and live action do seem to be colliding. You look at something like Avatar or whatever: How much is live action and how much is animation? You can't really say that's a live action film.

Nathaniel: I do wonder that about your profession. I've noticed in so many movies lately, not yours in particular, but in general that the image looks really processed.

Deakins: A lot is. You'd be surprised how many shots in True Grit were actually retouched or something digitally: a road in a landscape you have to take out, when Mattie was in the tree cutting down the hanging man, there's all that wire removal. Not big things like the creation of whole cities or something but still a lot of digital tweaks.

Nathaniel: Which film would you call your most challenging job?

Deakins: I don't know. They're all challenging really. Even the simple ones you kind of want to push to some extent and it suddenly becomes challenging. You think 'Oh this will be a nice little summer shoot and suddenly you find out  'ohmygod', you know?  Everyone was saying 'True Grit. Three characters on horse back riding throughout the west.' You think, well, 'oh nice summer shoot in Santa Fe' and then you realize that half of it is interiors and that half of the exteriors are at night! It's actually really complicated. And horseback -- people charging on horseback. 

The hardest thing really in recent memory was doing that whole sequence with the horse Blackie galloping through the night.

Nathaniel: And that scene makes the movie.

Deakins: It's quite emotional really, isn't it? But the idea of how do you do a tracking shot of a horse at night and the horse just happens to be black [Laughter] It's kind of tricky. [Indicating directive]  'A galloping horse at night. And he's black.' And I'm kind of 'What else can you throw at me?'

Nathaniel: How about your next film? It's called Now (2011). From Andrew Niccol of Gattaca fame. That film was so interesting visually. Will this film have a similar aesthetic?

Deakins: I know Gattaca quite well. I think it's got elements of Gattaca in a way. It's sort of similar in mood and feel and being a futuristic parable.


As we closed up our conversations I wanted to broach the topic of Oscar, which I immediately sensed was a topic he's always asked about. In truth he seems more at peace with it than his fans. His long history of nominations without wins is well known. What's less well known is that he is one of only twelve men to ever receive so many nominations in the category and he's the only living member of that frequently honored club. Only one of those men before him went Oscar-less. That was George J Folsey who shot classic musicals like Meet Me in St. Louis and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers was nominated an apparently unlucky 13 times. Folsey, like Deakins, even managed a double nomination. (Deakins double came for the 2007 duo: Jesse James and No Country, Folsey managed it twice but in the years of two separate cinematography categories for color and black and white films.) But hope springs eternal and many believe that with his gorgeous stark vision in True Grit his winning time has finally come.

Nathaniel: Are you exhausted by people wishing you well each time you're nominated. Or saying "it's your year!"?

Deakins: [Laughter] No, it's kind of all right. It's fun.

Nathaniel: Have you been to the Oscars each and every time?

Deakins: [Thinking...] Yeah, I have actually! [Laughter] So I'm quite used to sitting there. It's all right. The film is still the film. It doesn't make any difference.

Nathaniel: I'm always saying that: Great films are their own rewards.

Deakins: They absolutely are.

[want more interviews?]

Wednesday
Feb092011

Interview: The Editors of The Social Network

Meet Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter of The Social Network. They were my own gold medalists this year for Best Editing and they're Oscar nominated together for the second time for David Fincher's riveting classic. You won't know their faces but they've contributed significantly to major moviegoing pleasures in the last few years: their assembly skills kept all the difficult pieces of Zodiac's mosaic rubbing together; their attention to detail augmented those complex setpieces in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; their sense of rhythm and performance shaping kept The Social Network racing along without running roughshod over its dramatic soul. In short, they're quite a gifted team. 

Left: Angus Wall. Right: Kirk Baxter

Herewith some highlights from our conversation. 

When I spoke with them last week, they were on a wee break from working on the day's footage for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Nathaniel: David Fincher has been shooting The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo during the awards season madness. How is this even possible? It must be exhausting.

Have you had any time to enjoy the accolades yourself or does Fincher keep you both locked up in the editing bay?

[read the whole interview]

Click to read more ...

Monday
Feb072011

Eve Stewart on "The King Speech" Lacquering, Mike Leigh Yelling and Marlene Dietrich Peeing

How's that for a headline? All that is promised shall be delivered.

I recently interviewed production designer Eve Stewart, currently enjoying her second Oscar nomination for The King's Speech, and it was a completely delightful experience. Some of her spirit must have rubbed off on The King's Speech, which is, whether one is rooting for it at the Oscars or not, a much livelier viewing experience than what anyone might have expected reading a plot description months ago. "If you just hear about it on paper, it sounds..." I begin to admit after becoming acquainted.

"...a bit boring?"  she finishes my thought for me, matter of factly, with no hint of offense. "In the end i just thought 'GOOD GOD!' people are going to be looking at this room for 20 minutes. It better be interesting."

And so it went throughout the interview with Eve Stewart's merry recollections of The King's Speech, the intense work on Mike Leigh films, and her excitement about a new HBO project coming up. Here at the Film Experience we like to begin interviews with behind the scenes movie players by asking them to describe their job.

Moviegoers, including we film bloggers, have differing and sometimes spotty ideas about what each of a film's players bring to the table.

Nathaniel: When I think of production designers and art direction I think of people maybe looking at color palettes, approving sets, looking for props, talking intently to the costume designers. How would you describe what it is that you do?

Eve Stewart: I would describe my job as to support the story visually and to make sure that the world in which the story is set comes to life and creates a 'Bubble of Belief' around the characters which kind of transports the viewer with them.

Nathaniel: When it comes down to the nitty gritty like set constructions and prop work. Do you have a bunch of minions that you're bossing around?

Stewart: Oh I'm really hands on. My team is very small. I did painting at the Royal College of Art. I did opera and stuff like that so I didn't really do the normal film route. So the people I work with are sculptors, painters, fine artists that I've worked with since I was young and they all have a massive role to play.

Nathaniel: Do costume designers report to you since the visual look is your job?

Stewart: They don't report to me but i'm really collaborative.  In the end you are responsible for everything that is seen, all that gets photographed, so you have to make sure it all pulls together. I mean, It's terrible if you're designing a building and it doesn't look like the people live there because you haven't communicated with the costume designer. And also with color, you have to work together and compliment each other.

Nathaniel: The obvious standout set to me is the speech therapist's office, which I like to describe as a "dilapidated diorama"

Stewart: (laughs) Good!

Nathaniel: I love that it feels a bit like a stage. I mean part of that is the way it's shot but it pulls out for us that Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is a theater person at heart.

read the whole interview for more on The King's Speech, her Mike Leigh movies and Marlene Dietrich for HBO after the jump

Click to read more ...