Hotel Artemis Review

What else about the story influenced some of the visual choices you made?

I think a lot of the best visual choices come from the movie itself rather than from arbitrary choices. Going in, I made a promise to myself never to make a choice in the movie just because I thought it was cool. It had to have a reason. It had to be justified. It had to come from the material, and the place is set in this busted 1920s hotel, and each of the rooms is themed to one of the top 10 vacation destinations of the 1920s. It’s why, weirdly, the Niagara room was originally called Blackpool, based on, oddly, the northern British city that was one of the biggest holiday destinations of the 1920s.

It’s funny how these things come about. That was a suggestion from the hotel itself. I also knew that because I was shooting this movie on such a low budget I couldn’t build all of the rooms, and I needed a way to really clearly differentiate between the rooms as I redressed them each time. I was like, “A giant picture wall will set the tone for the room visually, and that will allow me to make each room a different color.” Which also is very important, because it’s a bubble movie, right. It’s based mostly in, essentially, fucked up hotel rooms. So, if I’m popping between those rooms, visually I need them to look different each time.

Then finally the picture walls work thematically, as well, because the movie’s all about a bunch of people who are trapped in cages of their own making, or simply in the Artemis itself tonight. I liked the visual irony of people who are trapped, but with essentially this beautiful view of freedom like taunting them in each of their rooms.So my favorite kind of production decisions come about when those mix of ideas all bring it together.

When Jeff Goldblum arrives as The Wolf King of LA, the zoom in on his sunglasses’ reflection is such a fun shot. How did that shot come about?

When I start a movie, when I have the one line idea for the movie, if that’s how it comes about, or for a character, or whatever, I start a little notebook, and I write all of my ideas for it in that notebook, and I start a playlist, and I put all of the songs that connect to me in that playlist, and I start a Dropbox with all the images that as I go through life feel like they are a part of that project. Over weeks, and months, and sometimes years, that’s the boiling pot of influences.

One of the influences was a pulp cover on my bookshelf of To Live and Die in L.A., and it has a reflection. It’s just a pair of sunglasses. It’s a badass ’70s font, and then … well, I guess, ’80s. And then a pair of sunglasses with a kind of reflection of LA in it. So I always had that image, so I always knew that I wanted something reflected in the Wolf King’s eyes, but then it became, again, there’s like a thing where you start to join up all of the material. My editor, Gardner Gould, would always say that like, “You know you’ve put enough stuff in a movie when the parts of it start to talk to each other.”

One of the decisions I made was at the beginning of the movie, The Nurse is trapped, essentially, by The Wolf King, so I wanted this image of her reflected small in The Wolf King’s glasses, to kind of signify for fact that he owns her. Then later on in the movie as she confronts him, we see his prone reflection in her glasses in a shot that kind of speaks to it, and I liked the way that imagistically showed the power dynamic shift in the movie.

The movie reminded me of how much I missed watching Jodie Foster. She seems very selective. 

She is, yeah, and so I’m very, very lucky that she found our movie, and kind of approached us before it even had gone out into the world, weirdly.

How does her performance compare to what was on the page?

It’s incredibly close, actually. One of the things that Jodie said to me at the beginning, which I loved, was, “The boys always get to play characters, and we girls, we women, always have to be a version of ourselves.” She was like, “I want some of that good Daniel Day Lewis stuff where I get to like build a character from the ground up.” So hence is a departure for her, and there’s a bunch of things that you don’t normally see Jodie do, like she’s very funny as The Nurse, in a way that’s actually really tough to deliver.

One of the reasons she liked it is the whole movie has this kind of 1920s meets 2020s kind of vibe, and she loved the fact that The Nurse’s dialogue almost owes as much to kind of Barbara Stanwyck and the kind of golden era Hollywood as it does to crime movies or sci-fi movies. The voice of The Nurse has a very kind of old school Hollywood … I hesitate to say Wilder-esque, but definitely that kind of clickety-clack kind of back and forth vibe to it.

So I think all of that stuff is what drew her to it, and she just embraced all of it. There’s just that amazing thing when suddenly you’re on set with Jodie Foster, and she’s fucking nailing this character that started in your head. That’s a good feeling.

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Part two of this interview will run tomorrow. Hotel Artemis opens in theaters on June 8.

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