Zurich 2012 - Arbitrage Q&A
Posted on Tuesday September 25, 2012, 09:41 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
On the surface, Arbitrage, writer-director Nicholas Jarecki’s debut feature, might look like another zeitgeisty morality tale in which an evil banker gets his comeuppance (see Margin Call et al). Thanks to a whip smart script and a superb central performance from Richard Gere as financial titan Robert Miller, a flawed man in a flawed world, fighting for survival as his life begins to fall apart. An intense human drama, the film, through Miller’s plight, delves into the personal consequences that derive not just from rapacious greed but from bad judgement, something of which we have all been guilty.
Arbitrage, which also stars Susan Sarandon (playing Miller’s wife), Tim Roth, Brit Marling and Nate Parker, received its European premiere in Zurich last, and event marked by Richard Gere’s acceptance of the festival’s Golden Icon Award. So far, despite rave reviews in the states, record-breaking per-screen box office and murmurs of an Oscar nod for Gere (his first ever, were he to get it), the film does not have a UK distributor - a state of affairs likely to be rectified in short order.
Empire spoke to Gere, Sarandon and Jarecki at Zurich’s exceedingly well appointed Hotel Baur au Lac yesterday.
It’s the clichéd opening question but -
Nicholas Jarecki: What was the inspiration for your movie Arbitrage!? (laughs)
I was going to say Can you spare any change?, but that’ll do.
Jarecki: Both my parents were bond trader so I grew up in that world. I was interested in it myself for a while, so it was something I knew. And in 2008 we watched the world turn upside down, so it just seemed like where the action was. The more I looked at it the more I realised I wasn’t alone in not knowing what the hell was going on; the people at the wheel didn’t know what was going on. That universe provided some classic tragic themes, and I wanted to show the humanity of the people caught up in it.
(To Gere and Sarandon) What was the attraction for you?
Susan Sarandon: You never get an insight into what family problems are going on when the mystery of trading is going on. I thought it was interesting to get a glimpse of how this situation impacted a family. I liked the fact that she’s surprising in the end, and I got to work with Richard and wear nice clothes (laughs). I thought it was a very engaging story, a thriller that deals with some complicated moral issues.
Richard Gere: The first thing that struck me was how good the script was, I wasn’t even looking at the role. It’s very rare these days to find a movie that’s about people, that has great dialogue, rich language and dramatic situations that keep escalating, driving forward. Every time you think you know what’s going to happen next, there’s a left turn, or a complete u-turn. It was just a terrific read. Most of the movies made today have very little to do with our everyday realities, but I recognized the people in Arbitrage, especially having grown up in New York. And almost supernaturally Nick, as a first time writer, was able to show us New York from all angles based on character. That was a huge selling point.
It’s not a bad role either.
Gere: It was a challenge. It made me consider many different ways of playing this guy. Nick and I came to the conclusion early on that we wouldn’t make him a paper villain but someone recognizable as us; I think we see ourselves in him in many ways. And because of that identification, you want to take the ride with this guy.
How was it for you two seasoned pros to be directed by an upstart rookie?
Gere: Nick is very self-effacing. There are a lot of guys who pretend to know what they’re doing when they don’t know anything. Nick was very clear: he’d never written or directed a movie before and he really wanted to know from us, from all of us who had made many movies, how to do it. He’s a movie guy, he’s got it in his gut. But the process of making a movie is quite difficult, and how you deal with people has a lot to do with what that movie becomes.
Sarandon: With every movie you enter a new universe, whether it’s a first time director or a ten-time director. I’ve worked with a lot of first-time directors, and maybe sixty per cent of the time it’s turned out well This is one of them, so that raises my score.
Jarecki: It was a very collaborative process.They made me very comfortable and spent a lot of time figuring out how things would work. There’s two lines I love. When Susan is fixing Richard’s tie before the big meeting she says, ‘Confidence equals contract.’ I spent a week trying to come up with a line there and (to Sarandon) it took you, what, two seconds? And then there’s the scene in Central Park where Richard says to Brit (playing his daughter, and an executive at his company), ‘You’re not my partner! You work for me!’ I didn’t write that, Richard wrote that.
Sarandon: You see, Nick is secure enough to give us credit. That doesn’t always happen (laughs). He’s interested in actors and what they can contribute, and that isn’t always a given. (To Jarecki) I’m patting you on the back (she pats him on the back).
The film’s done great business and had great notices in the states, but it doesn’t have a UK distributor.
Jarecki: It has distribution everywhere except the United Kingdom. I don’t really understand why, but we’re working on that now. Hopefully they’ll be encouraged to make the right deal by the record-breaking box-office it’s doing in America - number one per screen first week, number three per screen second week, in addition to the vast video business it’s doing. So if you know anyone there...
Sarandon: And in addition to the incredible response at the Zurich Film Festival! (laughs). That should really push things along.
Let’s hope so. Final question for Richard. How does it feel to be officially proclaimed an icon?
Gere: Very grown up.