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Joe Wright Webchat Transcript
The Hanna director on assassins, muppets and tennis shorts

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Joe Wright, the director behind Atonement, Pride And Prejudice and The Soloist has taken a new direction for his latest: he's gone all action on us. Starring Saoirse Ronan as the eponymous child assassin, Eric Bana as her protective, equally-dangerous dad, and Cate Blanchett as the big bad governmenty person, it's a thrilling, um, thriller, and as he was in town we thought we'd invite him round to ask a few questions about it. The queries queried ranged from the philosophical to the surreal to the totally weird, and we've got all of them - and their answers - for you below.

Joe Wright Webchat Transcript

KeiraSupporter says: Hi Joe, saw Hanna last night and loved it. How did you go about deciding to use the Chemical Brothers for your soundtrack? Was it merely to keep in with the pace of the film? Or have you always wanted to work with them, and they were quite right for Atonement?
I have always wanted to work with them. I've known them for nearly 20 years now; I was at their first London gig in 1992 and have been a fan ever since. So when I first thought about making this movie I thought they'd be the perfect accompaniment to what is essentially quite a modern story.

Daryn says: Hi Joe, would you ever consider directing an adaptation of the novel Birdsong? I think you would be a perfect choice for the job.
I actually considered it some time ago. But I'm not sure that it really works as a film. It's being made by Working Title now as a mini-series for TV, and I think the episodic nature of the book would suit that medium very well.

Ants says: How did Saorise's acting evolve from Atonement to Hanna?
Saoirse's talent comes from her extraordinarily powerful imagination, and that imagination has maintained her over the years. So she's more controlled now, but she was always incredibly dedicated and hard working. I guess she's a bit more serious now.

GenreGiant says: With Hanna being so filled with child assassins and government agents (characters we've seen before in other movies) was it difficult to give the film its own uniqueness so it could stand out from the generic crowd?
When we were making Hanna, Kick-Ass hadn't been released and so I wasn't aware of any previous films with child assassins. So I thought I was being very original. In terms of CIA agents, I wasn't interested in making a procedural film, and was far more interested in the emotional lives of the characters and the surreal subtext.

beckiw says: I watched a documentary on BBC Four about David Lean. You featured and few times in this documentary and noted how you can learn everything there is to know about making films just from watching David Lean films. What is it about his films that you love so much and how does it influence you in your work?
His films are purely cinematic. I think this probably comes from the fact that he was a film editor to start with and so had an innate understanding of montage and movement, the two central aspects of filmmaking.

Quentin_Cappucino says: There were some reports online recently about you attacking Sucker Punch. Were they accurate? And what movies have you seen recently that you've loved?
I did make a disparaging remark about Sucker Punch, about the Sucker Punch marketing campaign, which was construed as being an attack on the movie itself and on Zack Snyder. I deeply regret that. It takes a huge amount to make a movie and I certainly wouldn't want to make disparaging remarks about any other director. I've seen lots of films that I have enjoyed very much recently. Of Gods And Men, Pina, Social Network, which I thought was one of the most important films of the last decade. It's an exciting to be a movie fan.

Big_Pants says: This one's on behalf of Mira who had to leave the webchat: My question for Joe Wright: What was his motive behind mixing the fairytale genre with an action story?
The script always had a fairytale structure to it, so it was inherent in the film. And I guess I made that more explicit in my realisation of the film, using fairytale iconography as a portal to the subconscious and the surreal.

Joe Wright Webchat Transcript

Jimmy The Saint says: It is hinted Hanna may be superhuman. Have you ever been offered a superhero movie and which one would you make if you could?
If the script was right, I'd certainly do one. I really enjoy the challenges of shooting action. I'm very jealous of Sam Mendes doing the new Bond movie.

KeiraSupporter says: Along with Ridley Scott, you make the most inspiring films about women. What draws you to telling your stories through the female character so much? Do you really wish you were a woman?
I have been known to wear a touch of eyeliner in the past, but I'm quite happy being a man. I guess I like women, and get on with them, and I try not to intellectualise my motives for portraying female protagonists. If it works, work it.

Le_Sauxle says: If you could steal anything from the Empire office, what would it be?
I've only just got here, but there's a very nice photo of Keira and James McAvoy which must have been taken for the 20th birthday issue. I wouldn't mind nabbing that. Not so keen on the one of Arnold Schwarzenegger, mind.

philcave1 says: The wonderful long tracking shot on the beach in Atonement... How many takes did you do before you got it right?
Three takes, and we only got that by the skin of our teeth - the tide was coming in fast and our set was about to be washed away.

Matt Buckler says: Joe, I read somewhere that for a long time you didn't believe in 'happy endings'. Did that belief come for a cynical sort of place, spawned from a bad experience? Or was it simply dissatisfaction with the concept that a happy ending is applicable to life?
I guess I thought happy endings weren't cool, and in my 20s I desperately wanted to be cool. Once I hit my 30s, I kind of relaxed on that and learned to accept myself a little more, and accept the idea of happy endings. Funnily enough, my favourite happy endings are those which involve acceptance even in the face of unhappy circumstances.

KeiraSupporter says: Having seen Hanna, I wish Eric Bana was my dad now... anyway what were Eric and Saorise like together on set?
Eric is a great dad in real life too. And he was very paternal towards Saoirse, very protective, always worried during the fight scenes that he might damage her in some way. But in fact he was far more likely to get damaged himself. He's also very funny, and did tease her quite a lot.

ShaBOOM says: Your piece in the last issue of Empire was amazing - I found the stuff about you getting screwed over on The Soloist especially interesting - how did the cast react to how you were treated?
Glad you liked the piece. Once the film's finished, one doesn't necessarily see much of the cast. Although I keep in contact with both Robert and Jamie, by occasional text, I don't see them very much. Catherine Keener, though, is a keeper.

Joe Wright Webchat Transcript

lnkjh says: Your Atonement director's commentary is great, very insightful. Are there any commentary tracks from directors which you could recommend?
To be honest, I haven't listened to any so I don't have any suggestions for you. I'd like very much to hear a David Lynch commentary though - does he do them?

beckiw says: What's the one piece of advice that you could give to an aspiring filmmaker that you wish someone had told you?
That's a tough question. It takes so much belief, passion, love to get there. I guess to become a friend of the BFI and watch as many films as you can would be a good start. Also, it's important to surround yourself with like-minded people. Actors, writers, and camera people. Hang out at fringe theatre venues if you've enjoyed someone's performance, tell them. These people will be invaluable when you get a short film up off the ground.

GenreGiant says: You've mentioned your liking for films like Of Gods and Men and The Social Network but with your film being released before we get properly thrown into the summer season of sequels and remakes, do you think that there isn't much originality in film at the moment for a general audience? Or is it difficult to bring something interesting and new to film now?
I think the industry is nervous. Ticket sales have dropped drastically over the past few years, and the studio bosses are genuinely scared of unemployment. So they stick to what they know works, what they recognise, and are less likely to take risks. It's a reciprocal relationship between audience and filmmakers. The audience are responsible as much as the studios. If you want better films made, you have to get out and go to the cinema and see the more interesting films. You have the power to make them a success.

SmasheringSmash says: What, above all other sandwiches, is your favourite sandwich?
I'm very partial to the classic cheese and pickle. Every day on set, at the end of shooting, my assistant brings me a cheese and pickle. That's true.

KeiraSupporter says: I love Keira Knightley, and think she's a very underrated actress, what is it about her that draws you to working with her so much? And is she definitely your Anna Karenina? Not sure if it's been confirmed yet.
She definitely is in Anna Karenina, playing Anna herself. As for what draws me to working with her so much, maybe it's because we understand each other very well, or perhaps it's because we're both dyslexic.

Quentin_Cappucino says: Very important question, Joe: who is your favourite Muppet?
The Swedish chef, OBVIOUSLY.

SmasheringSmash says: What movies have you been offered, then refused, then regretted doing so?
I'm not sure that I've regretted not doing anything that I've turned down. And it would be rather rude to whoever ended up making them to name them.

Geembobble says: You've used the same actors in a some of your movies - Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan and Tom Hollander are a few. Are there any actors you are dying to work with?
I like Mia Wasikowska very much, I wish Kathy Burke was still acting. I'd like to work with Gary Oldman one day. But really, I get to work with all the actors that I want to.

substance001 says: Yesterday an American girl asked you how you chose your next projects and you said fear of not knowing how to do something. So what about Hanna made you fearful?
The action. And the atmosphere. The action because it was so far out of my comfort zone. And I think, to do action really well, a director must have a very firm handle on his or her craft. The atmosphere because I wanted to make it quite subtle, and didn't have the budget to use any CGI to enhance the fantasy elements.

beckiw says: I read that you like to model some shots in your films after classical paintings. Do you do this in every film and is there a motive behind this other than it looking beautiful?
No, there's no real motive as such. But I think it's important to cast your net wide in terms of references. Film can cannibalise itself sometimes so I'm always looking for references in other mediums.

Joe Wright Webchat Transcript

Matt Buckler says: Do you think that every film should be about making some sort of statement, either political or about human nature? Or do you think that films can be made purely to be escapist entertainment can still have worth in their own right?
This is a discussion that has been debated for centuries. The aesthetes versus the didactics. Personally, I believe in art for art's sake. Beauty needs no reason. And yet, I'm drawn to certain issues which I feel are worth expressing through my work.

Big_Pants says: Did Tom Hollander enjoy wearing those delicious tracksuits?
Very much so! Especially the tennis shorts. There was a lot of frottage on set that day.

Big_Pants says: Despite all the violence in the film it was Cate Blanchett brushing her teeth that gave me the heebee jeebees. What was the thinking behind that scene?
Interesting you should say that - to me that's certainly the most violent moment in the film. Perhaps because it's someone committing violence against themselves. I've got quite dodgy teeth myself, and so whenever I go to America I feel very inadequate. I guess it was a reference to the American perfect teeth and a metaphor for the impossibility of perfection.

kalynda says: Would you ever consider returning to TV?
Certainly. If the script were right and schedule allowed. One thing I really love about making films for the cinema, though, is designing a soundtrack for a cinema sound system. Working in TV allows you a very limited dynamic sound range, and I think I'd find that frustrating.

kurtis says: The Little Mermaid is one of my favourite stories and films. You once said you were planning on adapting it, are you still?
I am. But with the current slew of fairytale adaptations, I think I might have to wait a while.

emilia says: Hello, Joe, We know Benedict Cumberbatch will join Anna Karenina as well, would you mind tell us which role he will play?
He won't be, actually. Unfortunately there's a scheduling conflict.

beckiw says: When you start a project what is one of the first things that you do as a Director?
Sit down with Sarah Greenwood, my designer, and start looking at pictures and thinking about locations. It's a lovely stage in the process because anything is possible and the accountants have yet to box us in.

Big_Pants says: How did Eric Bana feel about being beaten up by a little girl?
He's man enough for it not to affect his sense of masculinity.

Matt Buckler says: Would you rather be a Mouse, but with your brain, but all the limitations of being a little mouse or you, with all your opposable thumbs and stuff, but with the mind of a mouse?
In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, I'd rather be a nail.

beckiw says: What is the thing that you love most about being a director?
The fact that I am allowed to daydream for a living. The fact that I am allowed to play all day on set and the fact that I get to go to extraordinary places and meet a huge diversity of people from the Duchess of Devonshire to the homeless of Skid Row, from Finland in -29 degrees to India, the Yemen and Redcar.

Brainie says: If you were allowed to make just one more movie and that would be it, what kind of movie would you make?
That question actually makes me feel physically sick. Suddenly a great gaping hole opened up in my chest and I must keep myself from sinking into it. I see my work as a long progression. I hope I get to make many movies. Perhaps if I did make only one it might be The Little Mermaid. It has very personal significance.

Flux Echo says: What do you think is the long-standing attraction to the character of an assassin, from a core human perspective?
I think there is possibly an element of all of us that wishes we could go out and wipe out our adversaries. Perhaps the assassin allows us to purge those feelings so that we're better able to conduct our lives in a social harmonious and loving state.

Thank you all very much indeed, that was very interesting! I've never done one of those before. Ta-rah!

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