Writer-director Duncan Jones‘ new movie, Mute, has been a long time coming. “I’ve finally got this boulder up the hill,” he told us with a laugh and a sense of relief. The filmmaker behind MoonSource Code, and Warcraft originally envisioned his bleak, surprisingly old-school sci-fi mystery as his directorial debut, but the project faced its share of challenges over the years.

When you see the movie, it’s easy to understand why. Mute certainly isn’t a middle-of-the-road film or a story that plays it safe. The movie is a real nasty piece of work at times, but it’s also not without a sense of perverse fun and beauty. After sixteen years of Jones trying to get Mute made, the end result is a packed-to-the-brim science fiction noir that feels like it’s been waiting to be unleashed for a long time.

We recently spoke with Jones about the project’s history, his affinity for Blade Runner, twisting Paul Rudd’s nice guy image, and more.

You’ve maintained enthusiasm for this project for so long. What about Mute kept you trying to get it made?

It’s a combination of things. You know, when you trying to create stuff, for me at least, I don’t feel like I actually come up with truly original ideas that often. You really treasure them when you find them or when you think you’ve found them. For me, Mute felt original, and I think that was really part of it. You know, this lead character who couldn’t talk, and these two incredibly chatty antagonists that he finds himself up against. It was just a dynamic and a way of telling the story where you spend way more time with the antagonists than you normally would, that just felt new. It felt like I was doing something that I hadn’t seen that often. I think that was one of the reasons why I just couldn’t let it go easily.

It’s refreshing to see a sci-fi movie that doesn’t have any shootouts or big futuristic guns. It’s very grounded for a movie set in the future. 

Absolutely. I mean, there was something that Phillip K. Dick said about Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner when he first saw it: it wasn’t a science fiction film that they had made, it was a futurist film, and that he loved that. What I took that to mean was they had made a noir thriller which, although science fiction was an element of it, it wasn’t really about the science fiction. It was about the people, and it just happened to take place in a future environment, and that’s kind of what I wanted to do with Mute, was make a science fiction film which wasn’t about the world-changing technology. Or something that was going to affect everyone. It’s a small, localized noir thriller that just happens to take place in this place called the future.

Years ago you called Mute your love letter to Blade Runner, but it feels like your love letter to Hardcore

Yeah, absolutely.

But do you still see it as your love letter to Blade Runner? Or did the story become more of its own thing over the years?

I think you’re right that it did become more of its own thing, but I think what it is about Blade Runner which makes the original Blade Runner so unique, is the fact that it was so human. It is so much a character film, even though there were these amazing visual settings for it. I think in that respect there is still a connection between this and Blade Runner. It absolutely is not a Blade Runner-style movie. I mean, it is a noir. You’re right, Hardcore is absolutely the right reference, and that was one of the ones that we were using, Paul Schrader’s Hardcore. It’s a noir thriller that happens to take place in the future. Hopefully, the visuals are engaging enough and believable enough that you’d take this future version of Berlin as being a believable place.

You’ve said before it’s tough to do a futuristic city right in a movie. So, how did you want to make sure you got futuristic Berlin right? Why Berlin?

One of the amazing things about Berlin is that it is this incredibly dynamic and fast-changing city. I had the chance to live there briefly in the 1970s when it was in the midst of the Cold War, and it had this incredibly unique sense of being an island in the middle of the Soviet Bloc. This island of Western civilization in the middle of the Soviet Bloc. I think that, even with the fall of the wall, Berliners have always seen themselves as kind of a little bit apart from everyone else in Germany. Apart from everyone else in the world, in a sense. Even today the city constantly feels like it’s reinventing itself and looking to the future for what it’s going to be, as opposed to what it is right now. It is probably, in the Western world, the most forward-looking, most focused on what it’s going to be, place that I’ve been, as opposed to being sort of satisfied with what it is.

You usually see futuristic New York or LA, but not Berlin. The setting definitely feels new for this kind of movie.

Yeah, that’s absolutely true. In fact, when we talked to Studio Babelsberg about it, I think one of the reasons that all of the film community that we dealt with in Berlin was so excited was, you know, you’re making a film and it’s not about Nazis? That’s wonderful. They were thrilled by the fact that we were making a science fiction film.

There’s an optimism to your other sci-fi movies, Source Code and Moon, but Mute is easily your bleakest movie. Because it is such bleak material, is that what caused some of the trepidation over the years from studios or financiers?

I think it was always difficult to get made because of that bleak material. Unfortunately, my own personal life kind of had been a little bit difficult over the last few years, with various family members dying. It kind of put me in a mindset while we were making it that was probably the necessary place to be in order to stay honest to the tone and the genre of the movie. But yeah, it’s dark but at the same time, you know, between Cactus and Duck and the various cameos and slightly surreal moments throughout the film, hopefully, there’s enough humor that comes out of those that it balances it out. Like, Dominic Monaghan’s cameo.

Continue Reading Duncan Jones Interview >>

Pages: 1 2Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web: