When you go out into the desert, do you find yourself? Or lose yourself? Or something in between? That is one of the themes that Departed writer William Monahan is tackling in his second film as a director, Mojave. We’ve got some exclusive new images from the film to share, and spent time with Monahan on the set of the film to discuss it with him and star Garrett Hedlund.
“I've been basically working on Mojave part time and on weekends for about 10 years now,” explained Monahan during a wide-ranging conversation that journeyed not only across topics but also between locations on the set. “It's not that I couldn't have made it at any time, it's just that it finally became time to do it. The cast was right, more than right, and it was time to go.”
After weathering one big change (a scheduling issue meant Jason Clarke had to drop out) Monahan gathered a group that includes Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Walton Goggins and Louise Bourgoin for a 24-day shoot that crept around Los Angeles and fled to the wide open vistas of the Mojave desert and surrounding areas.
For Monahan, it was an attempt to do something he’d never tried before, especially in the wake of his disappointment with how his directorial debut, London Boulevard, was handled. “It's been a very interesting experience,” he says. “I started it as sort of a revolutionary experiment. Because a screenplay of mine has a certain dollar value if I were to sell it. And all of a sudden it occurred to me that that is the production cost of a film this size, so why not take the bold step of not selling the original screenplay, because I haven't had an original anywhere near the market since Kingdom Of Heaven. I was faced with the dilemma one might encounter in the desert – do I auction off Mojave and let it go be distorted and made improperly? Or do I do the right thing and just make it myself and forego the money?”
The film finds Hedlund as Tom, a writer-director battling depression and his loathing for Hollywood’s more vapid corners. Deciding on the spur of the moment to head out to the desert, he comes into contact with a man he can’t quite fathom, the drifter Jack, played by Isaac.
“Tom's a complicated guy,” explains Hedlund when Empire meets him in his trailer. “The first scene sees him waking up in Los Angeles and driving straight to the desert, so you don't know anything about this character. Ambiguity is a huge part of this as well. He's obviously running from something very mentally torturous or just the incredibly, overbearingly exhausting part of his life, which you come to find is the industry in which he's in. So he has to get the f**k out of LA, clear his head, there are a lot of things going on. He's going through a demented point in his life trying to escape. What I've always said about this is it's man goes to the desert to kill the devil within himself and ends up bringing it back with him, within Jack. He's sedated the devil within himself and brings back the physical form of the devil…” If that’s not enough of a killer selling point for the film, we don’t know what is.
Selling is becoming important now that Mojave – which was produced independently – is headed for the auction block that is the American Film Market. How to describe the film to distributors is a subject to which Monahan has given much thought.
“It's getting to be the time when one has to decide, for the purposes of selling the thing what Mojave is. It isn't anything but itself. If one were asked to provide a tagline for it, one of the idiotic lines that are always appended to movies, which are entirely like other movies and supposedly distinguished by these taglines which have nothing to do with the content of the movie and are stuck on for sales purposes, the tagline for Mojave, if one were to be honest, would be Mojave... Mojave is what it is what it is.”
Depending on who picks up the film, Mojave should hit screens some time in 2014. Empire will have more from Monahan and his team closer to its release.