Man Who Killed Don Quixote Release

Obviously, you went through a lot of struggle to get this movie made, but what were some of the more joyful moments you’ve gotten out of it? 

I think the joyful thing is that it doesn’t look like an old man’s film. It looks like somebody who’s still got a lot of life in him, and that pleases me a lot. I think the joys are small things, they happen every day because half the day is spent just in depression because you’re not getting what you want. And then an actor comes in and does something, reads a line in a fresh way, and suddenly it’s magical again. The thing comes alive. That’s kind of the way it works, and I feel that about everything I’ve done. I’m very critical about what I’ve done. I don’t like watching my films, because I see all the mistakes. But the good bits still impress me.

Any good bits that come to mind at the moment?

Well, actually, it’s very funny, two days ago, I was doing a regrade, or just grading, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, because they’re putting out a new HDTV thing. I haven’t watched it in years, and I was just blown away how good I was back then, and every moment of it just surprised me. It’s wonderful madness. I really admire that guy. I don’t know what happened to him.

[Laughs] I finally read the book and it gave me a whole new appreciation of the movie, which wasn’t celebratory at all. You showed the good but, mostly, the bad.

But that’s the whole thing. I mean, I remember the best review I ever got for that was from this 15-year-old kid when his parents said, “Why do you like that movie? Because it’s sex, drugs, rock and roll. It’s disgusting.” And he said, “No, it’s great because it’s the first non-hypocritical film I’ve ever seen.” And I thought, “That’s great to be not hypocritical.” Because I think there’s so much lie and deception out there. We were just trying to do the book, and the book was about a very specific time, a very specific experience, and I really think we captured it. That’s what I’m proud of.

You’ve shown different sides of many movie stars with your work. What interested you in Adam Driver?

What I love about Adam, he was constantly surprising. Basically, it was my daughter, who’s one of the producers, said, “You’ve gotta meet this guy because he’s bankable.” And we had lunch in a pub in London, and I just immediately liked him, because he was not like any other actor I’ve ever met. He didn’t seem to be an actor at all. He was just a very interesting character. And when he told me about when 9/11 occurred, he signed up with the Marines to protect his country, and I thought, “He’s crazy.” There’s a wonderful innocence about that. I thought, “He’s not thinking like most people are thinking.”

We got on immediately, and I was really happy because constantly he’s very serious about his work, but he doesn’t cheat. He doesn’t do tricks. It’s all solid, honest stuff. And yet, he’s so funny. And this film, I think, shows his range more than anything he’s done. It goes from the beginning, where he’s just a miserable asshole you don’t like, and then he becomes very funny, and by the end, he’s actually quite beautiful and romantic. It’s all down to him, and I think he’s truly a special actor. He’s great.

He seems like the type of movie star you tend to work with, the ones who are more of character actors.

But that’s exactly the thing because I mean, movie stars have become repetitive. It’s like what I do with Brad on Twelve Monkeys and push him to do something he had never done before. I like creating an atmosphere that people are confident enough to really take chances. And Adam … Adam just went for it. Every day he would surprise me with a reading of a line, or the way he moved, the way he did something. And he and Jonathan just became a brilliant double act, because they sparked each other off in very different ways, but it just lifted both of them. It’s wonderful to watch.

It must be gratifying for you to see, too. A lot of people still look at Brad Pitt’s performance in Twelve Monkeys as a major turning point for him. 

Yeah, I’m pleased that I get away by being perverse in my choices and pushing people to do things they wouldn’t normally do or sensibly do.

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