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Onscreen, Ciarán Hinds is a man of few words, an imposing figure with a chiseled, even skull-like face. But in the flesh, his words pour out with dizzying speed, so fast that he often gives the impression of talking over himself. With a few exceptions, Hinds’ screen work has been confined to indelible character parts, but in The Eclipse, he takes the lead, playing a widowed Irish father whose grief manifests in startling visions with supernatural overtones. As he escorts authors around a literary festival, he gravitates toward Iben Hjele, whose books deal with the paranormal, but their relationship has less to do with explaining the nature of his disturbing visitations than weathering the guilt of survival. Over dinner after a screening in Philadelphia, Hinds talked about playing gangsters, child molesters, and Julius Caesar, and the Picasso-like powers of Steven Spielberg.
The Eclipse (2009)—“Michael Farr”
The A.V. Club: You’ve worked with Conor [McPherson] on stage before.
Ciarán Hinds: Yeah, we worked in New York, on Broadway. It was the first time we worked together. It was two and a half years ago, on Broadway for this play, The Seafarer. It won a Tony Award for Jim Norton and a Tony nomination for Conleth Hill. We had met eight or nine years before that at an evening of short plays at the Dublin Theatre Festival. He had written and directed one of them, and I was in another one, a short play by Brian Friel, the great Irish playwright, who had adapted a Chekhov short story called “The Lady With The Lapdog.” I think Conor was working on his piece, but he’d also see every night this other piece, because of the three plays that were playing together. He was very taken by it.
I’d not really met him before. We talked, got to know each other, then, lo and behold, about six years later, he asked me to work for him. He was directing Seafarer as well as having written it, so he had a shot to call as to who might be in it. I was really thrilled to be asked, because I had seen it in London. I wasn’t in London; I went there just to see it. I got a call: Would I like to be in it? So I did that, and while we were doing it, he asked me to look at this very small, very slim—I’m not going to say “meager”—screenplay from a short story by Billy Roche, who was a friend of his, a fellow writer, that he was adapting. I found it very odd, because he hadn’t joined the dots. All of his stuff wasn’t filled in. But having worked with him, I had seen about three of his plays, I knew there would be an awful lot more, even if it wasn’t written down on the page. Even if it wasn’t written down in the script, you knew where Conor comes from in his head, being an English, philosophy, and psychology major. I read it, and we talked about it, and of course I was very honored to be asked again. And a year later we went to work on The Eclipse. Then a year after that, we went back to working in theater again. We just finished doing an adaptation of The Birds.
AVC: You’ve gone back to the original Daphne du Maurier story, and not the Hitchcock movie, right?
CH: Conor took the story and premise, and off he went on his journey. A lot of people didn’t like it, because they wanted Hitchcock’s version of The Birds. We threw 24 pigeons across, painted black. By that stage, I didn’t think it was necessary, but somebody wanted them in to say, “This is what it’s about.” At the end of Conor’s experimentation and adventure with the Daphne du Maurier story, he’d gone to a different place about humanity, survival at any cost, what does it mean to us morally, etc. By that stage, the birds in a way were redundant.
Road To Perdition (2002)—“Finn McGovern”
AVC: A lot of actors and directors work in both theater and film, but you have the interesting experience of having worked with a number of directors on both stage and screen.
CH: Actually, you’re right.
AVC: In addition to Conor McPherson, you played the title role in Sam Mendes’ production of Richard III, and then the murdered Finn McGovern in Road To Perdition.
CH: I’ve done one, two, three plays with Sam, and he asked me to do Road To Perdition. It was very gracious 10 years after to believe that I was right for this role. Roger Michell, who directed Persuasion, Jane Austen, and a small Belfast film called Titanic Town, I worked for him at the theater. But, of course, they’re all coming from there. The mixture of people in America, it’s not really a crossover, apart from the great Mike Nichols, who understands the whole darn lot, as far as I can see.
AVC: Broadly speaking, how much continuity is there for you, in terms of that relationship or that process, working with some of the same directors in both mediums?
CH: There’s something about the fact that whether you’re asked again or not depends on… First, you have to know that you’re right to play it, as quite a few people are right to play it. It has to do with if you’re chosen. They have to get their choices right, I suppose. You know what I mean? Casting is very, very important. For all the acting you can do, the actual soul of someone does somehow permeate through their work. Conor just said something about the way my face looks. He saw that we all bring something of ourselves to the work. Apart from that, we put ourselves in the situation that was right for the style and atmosphere of the piece he wanted to make. As the writer or the conceiver of what you want to do, if someone else is doing it, you might not have that luxury. I suppose when you work again with someone, somewhere especially where you understand people more than just going, “Hi, pleased to meet you, I’m thrilled to work with you. What are we doing?” To know somebody where you can shorthand, is immediate, the most immediate way to say “What are we doing?” You both understand, if you’ve worked together, if you need something. And the need is important. That’s all. So nobody needs to take umbrage. No one’s to say, “Usually Conor’s so trustworthy…” You want to repay that trust, basically.
AVC: The Eclipse is pointedly ambiguous about whether your character’s visions are real. He wakes up with scratches on his arms after a dream in which his father-in-law’s corpse attacks him, but there’s no other sign that anything physical has happened.
CH: Well, that’s a moot point, isn’t it, to say, “Well, what’s the proof of it?” In fact, we were asked a question last night during a question and answer as to whether it’s a visitation or a self-manifestation through guilt or grief. Of course the answer is, “Well, through that extraordinary scrabbling from whatever nightmare he was having, it could be self-inflicted and he wouldn’t even know.” I don’t think Conor particularly wants to say what the answer is.
AVC: Do you have to make that decision in order to play it?
CH: I just have to know that to see that vision is pretty horrible up close, as it is when it arrives in the structure of the film. It’s just the second one of those, so you’re well-warned. There’s something in the wardrobe. You’re not warned about the [scene in the] car. The camera starts a tiny little move, and you’re like, “Why is that moving there?” And the next thing there’s this thing, and you’re not sure what it is. We know eventually, it’s a version of his father-in-law who’s been left in an old folks’ home that Michael feels guilty about, who hates him because he allowed his daughter to die, though he didn’t. Cancer took her away. So he understands rage, bile, everything like that. And this is a manifestation to him. It just arrives unbidden, I would say. Some things arrive in our heads unbidden, a thought from out of nowhere. “Don’t think about that.” The one thing, the wardrobe itself, is, in a way, forewarned. It’s still a bit other, because it’s somebody dragging you down, taking a live human being down. There’s something about just that movement. That’s why it’s however simple it is, because they’re not super-freaked-out, expensive special effects.
AVC: There’s a lot of free-floating dread in The Eclipse. The movie deploys the mechanisms of horror films, almost forcing a kind of Pavlovian discomfort, but we’re not sure what, if anything, is the source of that feeling. There’s no release, because it’s never explained.
CH: I think Conor’s idea was, when we’re suffering from grief, we’re sort of discombobulated. We’re sort of off our balance. Whilst pretending, trying to keep things together, things are on our mind. They’re coming. Emotion is heightened. Everything’s down to a level where you can control it, but there’s something malignant coming from various directions. You see him with something that he’s reading, trying to understand. The light goes out. The dog senses something. A what? It’s that extra sense of perception. And yet he goes out, and what is it? Nothing. You don’t know what’s playing on him. I think, in the end, the reason Conor went for horror, supernatural, is that he somehow wanted to make it so you had to believe that these people are real, to put the audience through these jolts of shock or horror, to panic at time. So the audience can go like, “Shit, that’s scary,” and “This man’s seeing this.” Now whether you believe what they are or not, I don’t think Conor wants to put a flag up or whatever. He wanted it to be somehow real, this journey that we have through life.
AVC: It has a feeling similar to Don’t Look Now.
CH: It’s a sort of mature film. It’s about adults dealing with stuff, and acting a bit amateur, because they are. Even though they’re trying to be, it’s a bit rough around the gills. I think that’s right.
Rome (2005-06)—“Julius Caesar”
AVC: In film, you aren’t called upon to play softness often. You play a lot of people who are frightening for one reason or another.
CH: Because of the face lines. It’s a hard face. It’s craggy. But that’s not me. That’s a role I play. Especially cinema being a visual medium. I’ve got a wonky nose. Is it classical, is it not? That’s what’s hard work, getting down into the nitty-gritty of who are the human beings behind the front of what they present? I mean, that’s why when I was offered Julius Caesar in Rome, to go, “Oh, shit, how the fuck do you do this?” This extraordinary history, apart from everybody else supporting you, behaving as if you are, brings something, but I wanted to see more of his doubts as to what he’s doing as well. A little bit of that “Am I doing the right thing?” Clever, intuitive, brave, understandable, wide-visioned, tough, but just the doubts about right or wrong, to make that humanity, to see the flaws or weaknesses in him.
AVC: A lot of your film roles have been either smaller parts or smaller films with short shooting schedules. How different was it to do Rome, where you’re playing the same character for months on end?
CH: I’d never really been in a series, where you see a man at different points and perspectives in his life. Usually it’s a film, where I’m playing a character who just comes in and offers something up. I have played leading roles in television, from Jane Eyre to Persuasion to The Mayor Of Casterbridge, these people who go through this moments of confusion. But the only one that’s really been released on the big screen was Persuasion, which got a very cinematic release. That’s probably the only other lead role I’ve ever played [on film]. But we all work. We’re all craftsmen. “How big is your tool? I’ve got this massive mallet.” You know, whatever. It’s better for me. And that comes from theater; we’re all responsible, all of us, for the story. Nobody’s going to let it down, no matter how your role is. Whenever you’re playing the fucking king in Shakespeare, and some guy comes on and fucks up: “A message from… uh… Carlyle, my lord!” Suddenly the belief is just gone. That’s scary sometimes. Even the smaller roles.
AVC: The spear-carriers have to carry their spears.
CH: If all you’ve got to do is a couple of lines, dear Jesus, don’t let them down. Other people are taking responsibility.
AVC: How do you approach a character like Caesar, who had such a mythic presence, and yet was, in the end, just a man?
CH: Nietzschean. The superman. Fucking ridiculous. I’m pre-Christian, and all the rules and all the morals, they’re not in play. The only thing that I can really relate to is the subterfuge of politics, which will be with us always. That I understood, the Machiavellian nature of “You say one thing, but you buy them off with another.” A great theory is “Listen, don’t kill people. Make them your friends. It’s easier.” Then you take their friends along with them. But if they really give you shit, then you fuck everybody up. That’s the idea. If you start to run, you’re in power, make sure you cover everybody. What’s also great in Rome is this story, there’s this woman he really loved. He had a wife. And yet when it came down to it about the choice, he’s not going to say, “I renounce all my claims to godhead and emperorship, because actually this is what I really want.” If he had, things would have probably worked out grand. But he chose “No, my destiny is greater than this. I can actually”—even though he doesn’t mean it—“convince this woman by brutality that she ain’t worth shit.” But it cost him.
AVC: He might have been happier, but they wouldn’t have put his face on the money.
CH: Of course. And then the fact that the guy who wasn’t his son but he called his son, Brutus, is the one who actually turns around to lead people, finally, against him. Complicated business, dirty politics, I imagine.
AVC: When you said you related to that more, you just mean it’s something that’s in the world on a daily basis?
CH: Yeah, yeah. We’ve seen a lot of dirty politics in Ireland. We know from the French, their wonderfully neurotic presidents, that our hands are sort of tied. The Italians—I don’t know where it stops. No nation can claim “We are an uncorrupt nation, therefore we will tell you what the morals of democracy are.” Because it’s going on everywhere.
Life During Wartime (2009)—“Bill”
AVC: In Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime, you play an extension of Dylan Baker’s character in Happiness, a child molester coming to terms with the impact of his crimes. How did you end up playing that part?
CH: I’m seeing Happiness all those years ago and thinking, “Jesus Christ, I’ve never seen a film like this before in my life. Why am I half-shocked, but also upset and moved and disturbed, but energized, and want to go wherever it takes me?” I mean, I got this call out of the blue, too. This is fascinating, and I read it, and I thought, “Jesus, this is dark,” of course, “funny… Good taste, bad taste, whose taste? I don’t know.” But to work with somebody who in the end has such humanity for people, no matter what trials, tribulations, what their heads are doing, where they are, he understands that the idea of forgiveness, sometimes that’s never going to happen. It’s more than just that. Things are what they are. I think that scene he wrote between the father and the son is… you can’t know what to say. He asks for forgiveness; he knows it’s not there. You don’t know what to say. It’s done. All I know is that I’m condemned—to war, in fact. There is no way he can get back to any sense of being a normal human being. So that is his real sentence, either to leave the world or to be the walking dead.
AVC: Is it uncomfortable for you to play a character like that? Do you get to the end of the day and think, “Thank God, that’s over with”?
CH: Theoretically, mentally, you put yourself into a place. I would have issues with it if—sometimes directors want to show it right up front, like Michael Winterbottom has done recently in [The Killer Inside Me]. “You want to see violence? Here you go. You want to see real sex with kids?” I would say, “No, thank you.” The point is what? Because if people talk, they just know. Our imagination can be a powerful or a horrible object. That’s for sure. So in that way, it was a job I was asked to do. I was told I would be part of a project that would be very, very radically different from what I’m normally asked to do. But it was very lonely. Do you know what I mean? When you connect, there’s a deathly coldness to where he was. And yet, you follow… Some directors leave it to you. Conor, for example, would allow me or the actors to really communicate themselves outside the parameters of the scene. Todd is really specific about place.
Actually, I saw it for the first time at the Dublin Film Festival, and I found out that Conor is doing questions and answers with me afterward, by complete coincidence. Small world, eh? He’s from Dublin, I’m going to Dublin for the festival, just to represent the film, and it’s quite shocking. As an actor, you don’t know, aren’t party to, Todd’s filming. You’re there to try and film the truth that he wants. His framing is particular, and you’re taken by it. “Wow. There it is.” Very bold at what he wants to say. Whether it’s your taste or not, he suddenly puts you in places without you hardly knowing. “How did we get to here? What the fuck are we talking about? What are we listening to?” This hurts, or this is, like, soul-sick. I don’t know how directors create these ideas, but I think probably what they’re doing is honestly sharing, intellectually and emotionally, what they feel about things. Somehow we get pulled along with them.
AVC: Do you feel like you’re a co-conspirator with the director, or is it just a matter of doing your part, and they’re the ones steering the ship?
CH: I’d say they’re the ones steering the ship. Especially for writer-directors, because not only have they composed it, they’re conducting it as well. For that to happen, the instruments, which are us, I suppose, must listen up and follow the rhythms that the composer and the conductor want to happen, because they see the whole, and we only see what channels we’re in. But our channels can be open if they’re offered, like, “Play that slightly lightly, slightly campy,” or whatever. Because in fact, the difference between creative and interpretive, it all starts with the writing. Then if you can get the money together to make the film, then you’re in touch with the visuals and the actual creation, and the sound of what you want to mean. Of course, some directors get inspired by what people do anyway. Don’t feel the need [to stick to the script]. In fact, they sometimes go “That’s not what I had in mind, but that suits the purpose well.”
AVC: Many of the directors you’ve worked with fall into the former category of people who know what they want and are determined to get it. Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Michael Mann seem like very specific directors, not people who are like, “Let’s go on the set and see what happens.”
CH: You’re actually right. They are. At the same time, they’ve asked for you. There’s some quality. Steven Spielberg, I remember, he was doing a scene: “Okay, we’re just going to go through it. If I stop and ask, just keep your heads around who you are, and stay in character. I might just say, ‘Camera go back, go through, pick it up there. Go through.’ Play the scene that way, so it’s all about you.” He’s actually dancing around, until you get the hang of it. The rhythm, the flow, the whole thing. Just go over there and say “Lighten it up.” That one line, “lighten it up, pick it up, go.” If you’re alert with your senses, can you hack that? Can you dance that dance?
It’s different before, but with Steven, it seemed very easy. You’re alert to it, but he’s actually sly. He’d actually just say, “Wait, hold on. Get in character. Move back. Still in scene, still holding. Pick it up. Throw it away. Don’t hit that so hard. Okay, just go on and carry on.” We don’t have time to say “Oh God, I’m failing.” Just try to be a conduit, that through this can come direction from somebody who is so experienced and knows what he wants from the mixture of the scene. Why he’s cooking it. What he wants from that ingredient and that ingredient and that ingredient. And then we have the dish that we want. Which is quite a gift. Rather than looking at it and “Can we go again on that?” Actually why this happened.
AVC: There’s a stigma against giving line readings, but most actors seem happier when they have firm directions, rather than just being thrown onto the set and told to do whatever they want.
CH: Of course, of course. Because if you trust each other, like this, or however you give the message, and working with Conor for six years so he can give the message quicker, you understand it quicker, or you can be more straight: “What? Something’s not right. What can I do?” “Well you can wake up, for a start.” And that’s grand. A lot of our job is to keep alert. But to give line readings doesn’t really help anybody, because you may as well go and get somebody else to do the part who talks like that, really. Otherwise you just turn in a line-read performance, and you can read that when you watch something. I mean, if pointing out like, “Where’s the emphasis in the sentence? Think about the thought; where does it come from?” You go, “Ah fuck, of course.” Then you work it out, and your head tells you where you are, and you inflect it in a way that adds into something that might have been fucking done two weeks ago, but is a reference back to it, and you’re not clever enough, but the governor is, to see that.
The Sum Of All Fears (2002)—“President Nemerov”
AVC: What about the other end of the spectrum, movies like Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life or The Sum Of All Fears?
CH: Yeah, I know. I find myself asking “What am I doing here?” And yet it’s still exhilarating. On certain days.
AVC: It’s a very different job, in a lot of ways.
CH: The Sum Of All Fears was less clear for me. It doesn’t make sense to me. I get a call to go in to do one of these [bigger movies], which, I didn’t understand—you don’t meet the director, because they’re in another part of the world. You go in and “We’re just going to read this scene, if you don’t mind.” You get some pages. “This is the president of Russia.” And you read it with your false Russian accent into a machine, and they say, “Thank you very much,” and it goes back to somewhere. Then you get a call that says, “We’d like you to play the president of Russia,” and you go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And they say, “No, seriously.”
But the point is, this is Phil Alden Robinson, who has made Field Of Dreams, He’s a journalist, actually, and done a lot of documentary journalism. So he’s working from experience. So I think about, for a start, why am I wearing this hat? I don’t even know. Surely a big studio picture, they’ve grown up enough to know that if they want this “Who’s going to push the button?” Russian, in America, they can put subtitles down, and they can have people speaking Russian to each other. They’re not going to have Russians talking to each other in fucking Russian accents. In English. Surely to God. And I talked to a fellow, and he said, “Yes. I’m convincing them of that. Russian people, that’s what they do.” I said, “Yeah, but the problem is, I don’t speak Russian. Therefore, it would behoove you to get…” And they said, “No, there’s something about you. Would you prepare if we send over some tapes?” I said “I’ll do my best, but this is…” And he said, “Let me get this straight: You’re thrilled that you’ve got this job in Canada, in Montreal, but you’ve got to be the president of Russia.” And that’s sort of way, way, way off the range from what I’ve been doing, just been working, and sometimes film stuff.
So I got there, I got these tapes, and I got a piano tuner who was Russian to read a bit. To prepare. And they had a little woman, a lovely Russian woman there who, as soon as I was there, I had to do one scene with just one line of Russian. Then I had six days to go through the part with her. And then, I remember meeting [Robinson] on the second day of the shoot, and I said, “Can I just ask you? It’s lovely to meet you and thank you for the job. I don’t know how I got this job.” And he said, “I don’t know why they asked me to direct this film, either.” But it was honest. He’s a very intelligent man, but it’s not the kind of stuff that he does. It sort of made okay, it’s an even playing field. Whatever needs to be done needs to be done. It’s just moments like that that you remember, because you think he’s that, “I hired you because…” But he’s “We’re in the same boat. Let’s go.”
AVC: As an actor, you get pulled into these situations that are almost fully formed, but for your presence.
CH: It probably is what it is. The effects of strength. They say, “This guy looks like he’s serious.” They don’t know the real you, because they’ve never met you. They don’t know that you’re a courier from Belfast. That’s the art of artifice, whatever it is. But sometimes it’s proper scary. I know some people who have this innate confidence to do it without a problem. I’m always in between. That’s just the way I am. “It’s an adventure? Shit.” Or “That way disaster lies. Fuck.” Or, “Does it suit me? I don’t know.” There’s something about the idea that, well, somebody’s going to do it. It reminds me, just talking to you, I don’t really know what I’ve done. You do it and you move along. People who are listing make sense of that. I suppose I could, in retrospect. But life doesn’t make sense, so why even bother?
AVC: If you go back and watch movies you’re in, do you see yourself doing things that you didn’t know you were doing at the time?
CH: Probably. I haven’t seen everything I’ve done. There’s this thing about learning, maybe I shouldn’t do that. Learn as you go. My instinct was to trust the person who would tell me. “Do it again, don’t do that.” I don’t want to say, “I don’t want to do that.” Do you know what I mean? Because it’s much bigger than whatever I’m doing. I imagine they have the grace or the nerves to say “Do it again, and whatever natural mannerisms and tics you have, can we keep them out of the mix as well?” Well, you can probably keep them out of the mix, if you add a lot more in. Then they’ll disappear into your character, rather than at times it’ll just be as if you’re a blank parrot.
The Mahabharata (1989)—“Ashwattaman”
CH: My wife has actually just done costumes for his latest piece. She’s an actress, but she’s moved into that stuff.
AVC: And you met on the earlier film.
CH: In a big 10-hour epic, and it was brilliant and beautiful. I was involved in the six-hour television version. And then when they condense it into a film of two and three-quarter hours, I wasn’t in it all. Because there’s so many strains and open ends. It’s interesting, because sometimes you say, “How long should a film be?” Get with it, get it tighter, and people will have a better experience. But in the theater version of The Mahabharata, apart from the marathon, which was 10 hours, they did it in three parts. Then you do the film, and it’s just trying to get the essence of something, the joy has been distilled. It’s harder, because time and space are one of the mysteries.
AVC: Roger Ebert said no good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough. Sometimes cutting things out makes a movie feel longer even though it isn’t.
CH: Isn’t that the weird thing, how that one piece, the little extra moment takes you to a different place? That’s the thing too, is how do you make it work like that? It’s like, “What about this bit?” Because you don’t know what’s going to happen to people as they’re watching. Tell us something more, or are you just going to be going from there to there to there to there? If everybody knew there would be no road to travel.
AVC: As an actor you have control over such a small part of the overall experience, especially in film. The way your performance is edited can radically change the way it comes across.
CH: I suppose for their own benefit they can make a performance look not so well because it suits another performance. But why worry about that? That’s in the end, that’s the work that they have to do afterward. Even in the short time we had to film [The Eclipse,] maybe 25 days, we had to cover a bit of effects and landscape and strange places. There’s a lot that’s in a bin somewhere. There’s not a lot of realignment at all. But there’s a lot of holding an image for five seconds that was meant to go earlier, but that was hitting something too hard. Once it’s committed to celluloid, what does it still have to offer?
Steven Spielberg—everybody has an opinion on how easy it is, but when he arrived at 8 o’clock in the morning, in Malta, he had lunch with the actors, the six of us, for an hour, talking about what he’d seen, about costs, and started shooting at 4. First day. He had just been around a world tour for War Of The Worlds. Came in here with the preparation, the mindset to know. “I need a couple of days to look around”—None of that. The trust he puts in [production designer] Rick Carter, Joanna Johnston, who did the costumes, so that he can come in and start… Very little cued up. At the same time while he was doing this, there’s a scene in the script that [Tony] Kushner’s written, and it just says, very basically—I love this scene—it’s the five guys, they don’t know quite if they’re doing the right thing or not. It’s beautiful. He set it 6 o’clock in the morning by the river, and it’s just an image of people walking, ducks, a sense of a caesura, a pause. For some reason he says, “I love this scene. I love it. But I don’t see where it goes in the film. Yes I see where it goes on the page, in the storyline, but in the rhythm of the film I don’t know where it goes. I want to shoot it anyway. I just want to shoot it. We’ve got three hours.” So we shot it. We shot exactly what he wanted. He says, “Thanks guys, we’ve got to move on.” And it wasn’t in the film. The knowledge that someone would know that, and would still want to, just in case… But still, “No, somehow I don’t see it.” And sure enough, and this film’s shooting in October; and it’s out on the 23rd of December. Now how can that be? It’s pretty phenomenal.
AVC: Spielberg keeps a standing crew, using them in film after film, so he doesn’t have to start from scratch each time out, which would seem to compress the amount of time he needs considerably.
CH: The time, exactly. “Remember when we did that?” That’s the knowledge, experience, but always fluid.
AVC: He can change things up in the moment. There’s the famous story about Raiders Of The Lost Ark, where he had a big fight scene planned and Harrison Ford was indisposed, so he just had him shoot the guy.
CH: And it’s always worked. It’s an iconic moment. You’ve got fucking Picasso going “Oh, fuck. Oh… hello.” A splat, splash, and we’re like “Wow, that’ll do.” I don’t know if writers can work like that, because there has to be some… You don’t just splat words out in any direction. There has to be some intellectual conceit somewhere. Some kind of poetic offering-up or something. But a word might come out of the blue: “Does it fit? It doesn’t. Fuck it, I’m putting it in.” And then they go, “Whoa, wow! That’s broken all the rules.”