Perhaps desperate to slow down any Oscar momentum surrounding First Reformed, Paul Schrader has decided to complain about movie audiences, and then say some really dumb stuff about Kevin Spacey. The writer and filmmaker first sat down to an interview to bemoan the sad state of unserious movie-goers. Later, he hopped onto his Facebook page to reveal he really wants to make a movie with Kevin Spacey, despite the allegations of sexual misconduct against the actor. Needless to say, this has raised a few eyebrows.
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You only need to take a glance at First Reformed director Paul Schrader’s extensive filmography to know that he’s a risk taker. Not just because of the subjects he choses or the approach he takes, but also in method. He’s worked in the studio system with big budgets, but he has also self-financed his work through Kickstarter. Schrader’s work bristles with themes of obsession and loneliness. Every film feels like an opportunity to explore those themes in a different context. What’s loneliness when you’re a drug dealer? A gigolo? A gay playwright? Schrader is one of those artists who, after 50 years, still feels like he’s in his prime.
He was in Montreal for a retrospective of his work at the Festival of New Cinema. We talked in a hotel cafe in Old Montreal. Here is our conversation.
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Paul Schrader began his career in the movies as a film critic, but it wasn’t long before his Calvinist upbringing and his love of contemplative films from the likes of Yasujirô Ozu, Robert Bresson, and Carl Theodor Dreyer brought him to begin working as a screenwriter, mostly telling stories, mostly about lonely men in spiritual or emotional crisis. He became one of the most important writers of the 1970s and 1980s, with such works as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ; Brian DePalma’s Obsession, and Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast, as well as a string of films he directed himself, including Blue Collar, Hardcore, American Gigolo, Cat People, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, and Light of Day.
His string of compelling work as writer and/or director continues until today, with such works as Affliction, Auto Focus, Light Sleeper, and Bringing Out the Dead (again, directed by Scorsese). His latest film, First Reformed, is something of a return to form and subject matter for the writer/director, as he centers his story on Toller, a former military chaplain turned priest (Ethan Hawke, in one of the finest performances of his career), who is wracked by grief and guilt over many events in his past, to the point where it has taken on a physical ailment. At his most desperate moment, he meets a parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) whose husband, a radical environmentalist, commits suicide, setting in motion a series of events in Toller’s life that lead him to radicalism as well. In a fair and just world (and maybe if the film were being released later in the year), First Reformed would undoubtedly be part of awards discussions.
/Film spoke with Schrader recently when he accompanied the film to the Chicago Critics Film Festival. The onstage Q&A he did after the screening (co-moderated by this writer) can be viewed here; this interview took place the following day. First Reformed is now playing in New York and Los Angeles, and expands today.
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A24 has become one of those names that always has your attention. We sometimes don’t hear about their movies much until the trailers start rolling in, and then we’re totally on board. And that’s exactly how we feel about their forthcoming release from Paul Schrader, best known for writing Taxi Driver and directing a slew of dark and often deranged thrillers.
First Reformed follows Ethan Hawke as a priest who is becoming more and more disillusioned with humanity as his congregation dwindles and the world around him becomes more and more troubling. The clergyman suddenly finds himself taking matters into his own hands as he grows impatient waiting for God to do something. Read More »
We’ve quietly entered a renaissance of master American filmmakers tackling religious subjects with the gravity, dignity and seriousness they deserve. Add Paul Schrader’s latest movie First Reformed to a growing list of modern masterpieces on faith through hardship that includes Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man and James Gray’s The Immigrant.
Read our full First Reformed review from TIFF below. Read More »
If you’re going to hire somebody to write an American Gigolo TV series, Neil LaBute isn’t a bad writer for the job. Showtime and Paramount TV have hired playwright, screenwriter, and director behind In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things, and The Wicker Man remake to adapt Paul Schrader‘s ’80s classic, American Gigolo, for television. The original film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, is behind the show.
Below, learn more about the American Gigolo TV series.
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So far Paul Schrader and Nicolas Cage‘s second collaboration, Dog Eat Dog, has divided critics, but they’ve still been kinder to the duo’s latest film than they were to Dying of the Light, a butchered movie that got ripped out of Schrader’s hands. That unfortunate experience for the director helped bring him and Cage to Dog Eat Dog. For their second film, Schrader was intent on making it under the right circumstances, so he secured final cut for this comedic crime thriller. Also starring is Willem Dafoe, who’s no stranger to working with Schrader, having starred in Light Sleeper and Auto Focus.
Below, watch the promising Dog Eat Dog trailer.
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Paul Schrader and Nicolas Cage‘s previous collaboration didn’t go so well. The Cold Dying of the Light was taken from the director, butchered and then dumped into theaters. Schrader and Cage disowned the film, a mess that actually features a pretty good performance from Cage. To avoid repeating the same experience twice, they made sure to make their next film under the right circumstances. With Dog Eat Dog, Schrader has final cut, so, unlike The Cold Dying of the Light, this darkly comedic crime thriller is a genuine Paul Schrader film.
Below, watch the Dog Eat Dog international trailer.
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Paul Schrader wrote and directed The Dying of the Light, released in 2014, with Nicolas Cage in the lead role (above). But things went bad for the film, with Schrader and the producers falling into disagreement and the producers ultimately releasing a re-edited version of the film that is reportedly far from Schrader’s original conception. Whether Schrader’s version would have been better is open to question, but the story definitely got our attention.
Now Nicolas Cage and Paul Schrader are going back to work together on a new film. It’s a crime picture called Dog Eat Dog, and this time Schrader has final cut. Read More »
Yesterday we saw the trailer for Dying of the Light, the new film directed by Paul Schrader from his own script, with Nicolas Cage and Anton Yelchin starring as intelligence agents. But there’s some troubled backstory to the movie, and it isn’t really Schrader’s film now. He was locked out of the edit as the producers took over final cut and added their own score. Nicolas Winding Refn, who is on the film as exec producer, called the process “artistic disrespect.” Now the creators have lodged a creative Dying of the Light protest.
Schrader can’t talk about it because of the non-disparagement clause in his contract. So he, Refn, and his stars have posed wearing shirts bearing the text of that contract. Those images accompany a statement from the director, released today. Read More »