A very, very spoilerific Moon interview...
Posted on Wednesday August 5, 2009, 14:07 by Damon Wise
Now that Moon has been out a few weeks and you've had time to digest it, here's a very, very spoiler-heavy Q&A conducted in January at the Sundance film festival with director Duncan Jones and star Sam Rockwell that would surely get me shot if it ran in the magazine...
Sam, how did you get involved?
Sam: Duncan and I met to discuss another film, actually. We didn't end up doing that movie, but Duncan talked about some films he'd grown up watching, and I talked about films I'd grown up watching. The subject of sci-fi came up, and then Duncan went off and wrote this amazing film with his friend Nathan Parker. Like, a year later, I got the script. It was good timing. I was coming off a job, I read it... and that was pretty much it. I jumped on board.
Duncan, you wrote it specially for Sam, didn't you?
Duncan: I did, yeah. I wanted Sam to be in my first feature. There were some things I wanted to do that only Sam could do!
Now, the interview starts to get really spoilery from here.
If you haven't seen the film, don't read on.
If you want to preserve some of the film's mysteries, don't read on.
Unless you really want to know.
In which case...
Sam, did you have the same confidence?
Sam: I did not! (Laughs) I'm glad he did. I was nervous about it.
Duncan: But that's a good thing, because if you'd been jaded and bored...
Sam: Yeah. I could have been, like, “Aw yeah, clones. Easy!” (Laughs) But it was a tough thing.
How did you both envisage the personalities of the different Sam Bells?
Sam: There was a strong base there, and then we flushed out some other stuff in rehearsals.
Duncan: We had the chance to do a week of rehearsals in New York with one of Sam's acting buddies, and Sam gave me a real grilling on the story and the characters. Y'know, “How does this work? Why is this like this?” He brought lots of ideas and improv.
Sam: And then Duncan videotaped it, and we incorporated some of those ideas into the script.
Sam, what kind of ideas did you have?
Sam: I was really trying to get more specific with certain ideas and concepts that were coming from Duncan. The original concept for the film is Duncan's idea, which is: if you met yourself, would you like yourself? Duncan wanted a contrast between the different Sam Bells. It was a jigsaw puzzle of human behaviour. It was an actor's dream and nightmare at the same time, because it's what you dream of doing as an actor, and yet, when you get there, you're like, “I can't do this. This is impossible!”
Duncan: It's funny, we were just talking about this. We're both only children, and, in a sense, when Sam Bell meets Sam Bell, it almost becomes like a brother thing. You've got the older brother, who's got three years more experience and is a little bit more laid back about life, and the new, younger, more aggressive brother. But when they first meet each other, they don't necessarily see the good in each other, they only see the flaws. They can't help thinking, “God, he's an asshole,” and it's only over time that they realise that they're decent guys.
Sam: Yeah, it takes time. One of the things I did to prepare was, I watched a few things – films like Multiplicity, that kind of stuff. But one thing I didn't see explored at all was the adjustment to meeting yourself. It happens very quickly in some of the films that I saw. It's like, “Oh, OK, you're my clone...” You don't really see the getting-used-to-it. (Looks at Duncan) Imagine if I'm Duncan now, and he's Duncan too, and we're looking at each other. It would take a while to get used to it.
Duncan: It would be like carrying a mirror around with you everywhere you go.
Sam: It would be disconcerting, to say the least. So we were constantly trying to explore that idea, how uncomfortable that would be.
Do the Sams have totally different personalities?
Duncan: It's not in the film, but the Sam Bells all start with the same set of experiences, so at the point that they're activated, they're identical. But from that point, every experience they have is going to send them off on a slightly different direction.
Sam: It's a fascinating concept, when you think about it. If you take someone and put them in prison for three years, they're gonna be different when they come out. So if you go with the idea that being on the moon, by yourself, is almost like being in a prison, then there's gonna be some pretty radical changes. To be isolated for that long.
We never see the original Sam Bell, because he never comes to the phone. Did you ever film that?
Duncan: No. We never filmed it. The closest we wanted to get was the audio, where you hear him in the background.
Sam: It's creepier, just the audio.
Is there a backstory there? Did the original Sam Bell just offer up his DNA?
Sam: That's exactly right.
Duncan: He may have spent a little bit of time up there on the moon. They would have needed to record a certain amount of experience, to allow him to get used to his job, so that when they uploaded his experiences into the new clones, they were automatically ready to go.
Sam: What Duncan had said to me was that the original guy had actually been working up there for a while and he was ready to go home. The company said, “Well, we have a proposition for you. What if we take your DNA and clone you?”
Duncan: “...We'll buy your wife a lovely house, give you lots of money...”
Sam: Yeah, exactly. He was broke and he needed the money. Who knows how much thought he put into this – whether this would have some moral repercussions?
Duncan: (Laughs) It's the far side of the moon – no one's ever gonna know!
Sam: Yeah, fuck it! (Laughs) But that says something about the guy's character. his moral character is a little shaky to begin with. So it's an interesting character to explore.
There's also the interesting character of Gerty. Everyone associates robots with HAL...
Duncan: Everyone makes the assumption that they're gonna be the villain, or turn bad.
Sam: (Laughs) Saturn 3!
Duncan: (Laughs) Yeah, Saturn 3!*
Is it a credit crunch movie? In a way, it's about the exploitation of the workforce, and, in particular, people who don't realise their rights have been taken away. Was that anything you talked about?
Sam: (Sings) Workin' in a coal mine...!
Duncan: Way back, when we were having the first conversation about projects we'd like to work on, Sam talked about playing real, blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth guys, and that really stuck with me. I wanted to make sure that the character of Sam Bell was really grounded, had his own real-world problems,. I decided that he was taking this opportunity to get away from his wife for a while and sort himself before he went back to her, now that they were starting a family. So there were real human elements. And then there was my own baggage that I was bringing to it...
Sam: We'd both been in long-distance relationships.
Duncan: That actually came up an awful lot while we were shooting – talking about how weird that was, all the paranoia and all the other things you go through in a long-distance relationship. So that's very much in there.
What does Sam Bell do when he finally gets to earth?
Sam: We shot a scene where... Well, you tell him, Duncan.
Duncan: We might stick it on the DVD, but the idea was there would be a little epilogue, where Sam goes back to the house where his daughter is, and he leaves her one of the models that the previous Sam Bells has carved. It's funny; we had it in the cut, but it was so different in mood and in look from the rest of the film, it just didn't feel right, so we took it off. Even though the film lacks the sort of closure that shot might have given it, the end shot really tells you what you need to know: Sam gets home.
Sam, was it hard for you to watch yourself in this movie?
Sam: It was great, actually. It played really well. My parents really liked it – they really got sucked into it. But I had to watch it a couple of times to get into it. It's a lot of Sam. (Laughs) It was a bit much for me at first. It's a beautiful, sad, lonely story. It's a sad story going on.
*This bit is a bit cryptic to me, too!