The photo of Brian De Palma above was taken by Tyler Anderson for the National Post, for which John Semley interviewed De Palma. Semley describes part of the opening scene of the film: "Passion opens on McAdams and Rapace peering into a computer marked by the familiar Apple computers emblem. Then, a different, equally recognizable brand materializes on screen: 'Written and Directed by Brian De Palma.' This is what De Palma is selling. Not MacBooks or Nespresso or Audis or Coca-Cola, though all those trademarks crop up in Passion. He’s selling himself — he’s selling the idea of a 'Brian De Palma movie.'”
"I’ve freelanced all my life,” De Palma told Semley. “I never had a safe office to go to. No insurance waiting for me. I started making independent pictures, scrapping together money. Here, at the end, it’s kind of the same thing.”
"EVERY OTHER ART FORM HAS EMULATED THE MASTERS OF THE PAST"
The discussion turned to the frequent criticism that De Palma rips off from Hitchcock:
“First, they’re not looking at the movie,” De Palma says of his critics. “They’re more listening to it. You get these literary evaluations. Movies are essentially a visual medium, and the directors who practise that, I think, get misunderstood. Painters, writers, every other art form has always emulated the masters of the past in order to define a style of their own. But suddenly in cinema it’s like, ‘Oh, you stole something!’”
Semley writes that "De Palma is aware of his own critical recuperation, if a little confused by it." He then quotes De Palma: "I think I’m making a movie that everyone’s going to have a lot of fun with. And then I’m told it’s only for the De Palma fans who are going to see it at three o’clock in the morning."
"IT'S NOT LIKE I HAVE A PAINT BOX OF THINGS I WANT TO STICK IN MY MOVIES"
Metro World News' Ned Ehrbar interviewed De Palma in Toronto, and got some very energetic responses:
Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace both get the chance to really hit the crazy button.
That’s right. I mean, it’s like with Rachel — that phone call. When she gets the phone call about the guy who cancels the date, she heaved the phone [across the room]. I forget which take that was. (laughs) Wow! Unbelievable. And then she picks up the phone and figures out whatever she’s going to do next. She calls up an old lover and, “You want to come over?”
There is a lot of fluid female sexuality in this movie.
I just let the girls go with the scene and just sat back to see what would happen. The way that Dani [played by Karoline Herfurth] offered herself to Isabelle [played by Rapace] — “Kiss me!” — and then starts to undress her! (laughs) All the girls, all their intimate stuff, was all improvised. They just play it. They play it like they would play it if… They make it as real as possible. If something’s not working, we try something else, but they were all fantastic, and it was just fascinating to watch them.
Rachel McAdams’ character feels a lot like a grownup version of her character from “Mean Girls.” Had you seen that film already?
Of course. Oh, I knew Rachel could play it. I’d seen her play it before. Playing a dark, manipulative lady is a hell of a lot of fun, and she had a lot of fun doing it.
You use a split-screen during pivotal scene in the film. How have the reactions been to that?
It seems to work. Everybody seems to talk about it a lot. It’s not like I just have a paint box of things I want to stick in my movies. I look at the scene, and I think what’s the best way to shoot this? Also, I’ve never done a murder where you have a split-screen and you have these two fantastically beautiful women on each side, and then suddenly a knife slashes somebody’s throat and you see somebody with a mask splattered with blood. I’d never done it before.
Have you heard anything from the makers of viral video you recreated in the film?
I haven’t heard anything. But yes, I saw it on the Internet and I basically copied it for the movie. It went viral, everybody thought it was real, but in reality it was two advertising executives [in Australia].
You didn’t have to reach out to them about using the idea?
No. I think advertising copies everything, basically. I don’t think they get worried about being copied themselves.
What’s you take on festival audiences?
Oh, a festival audience is the best audience in the world, especially for a director like myself. There will be De Palma fanatics out there in the audience, so it’s not like you’re in front of a hostile audience. They’re the kind of people that love your movies and want to see what you’re doing. And Toronto especially has very enthusiastic audiences. Needless to say, I’ve brought so many movies here to the festival and seen the audiences’ reactions.
What do you like to see yourself at film festivals?
I go to see the obscure movies that will never get into Manhattan. I do it mostly by reading the descriptions, looking at the trailers, maybe getting some information or insights from some of my friends, and I just keep going and watching as much as I can.
RACHEL: "I FELT LIKE THE ONLY PERSON I COULD DO THIS WITH WAS NOOMI"
Entertainment Weekly's Solvej Schou separately interviewed McAdams (by phone) and De Palma (at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel) in Toronto. "I was intimidated by Brian at first,” McAdams told Schou by phone. “People have certain kinds of movies, and I thought he would be a certain way, but he wasn’t. Brian watched everything Noomi and I did. I think he does that with everyone. He’s really interested in his actors. He obviously loves film." McAdams also delved into her character: "Playing Christine was a challenge. She’s kind of wickedly delicious, but not too too much. Those characters can be more fun than the ingénue, the leading lady, where there’s the expectation of having the audience like you. I saw the film not too long ago, and I found the sexuality quite restrained, even for Brian De Palma. I found it more about possession, and not about wanting to have sex with each other, and be physical, but wanting to possess the other. I think he’s dealing a lot with vanity, and narcissism. You want the other person to reflect what you want to be. I felt like the only person I could do this with was Noomi. It certainly made it easier. I was nervous!”
De Palma revealed to Schou that the director friend who suggested he take a look at Rapace was Steven Shainberg, who had been considering Rapace for his film The Big Shoe. "He gave me all her Swedish DVDs, and I started to look at them," De Palma told Schou. "There’s some really wild stuff in there. He said, 'This is a really bright girl, and you should talk to her.'"
De Palma also discussed how the two lead actresses brought their own game to his film set. "They came with their own dynamic. They worked together on Sherlock Holmes 2, they knew each other extremely well, and they had this thing between them, that you could see them kind of vying, and they just brought it right into the characters. When we went into rehearsal, I had to watch what they were doing, and they did all kinds of things that surprised me."
When asked by Schou if he has high hopes for Passion, De Palma replied, "Yeah, because I think it’s very commercial. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a good mystery, the girls are terrific. I haven’t done a movie like this in a while. Raising Cain was very successful. We made it for about $10 million. The budget on Passion was $25 million. I made more money on Raising Cain than I made on Mission: Impossible. I think Passion is going to be very successful because it’s fun. I saw it with the Venice audience. You know when they’re watching a movie, this [mimes typing on a cell phone] did not go on. I only saw one cell phone light go on. It was always the same person, who was obviously texting."
When De Palma explained that he wanted Jose Luis Alcaine for Passion because "he knows how to photograph women," Schou asked De Palma if beauty can sometimes overpower nuance. "Are you kidding?" said De Palma. "In contemporary cinema?? I was looking at Rust and Bone, and there’s this gorgeous woman, Marion Cotillard, in a dark corner, and maybe you see the edge of her nose, with no makeup. I made a movie about a stylish business world, and I want the women to look good! … Rachel looks magnificent, and Noomi is the black pariah, she’s always in black, with these bangs."
And in this passage, De Palma discusses his view that by the time they reach 60 years of age, most film directors have already done their best work:
You said something recently, about filmmakers growing older having their best films behind them. What about Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood, directors making movies later? You’re in your 70s. Why can’t there be a Georgia O’ Keefe situation, someone making grand art, a grand movie later in life?
I’m just recording what I know from what I read, and studying directors’ careers. Most directors did their best movies in their 40s and 50s. It’s a debilitating profession. It’s got all kinds of ways to screw you over. Being able to hold the power, doing what you have to do, is incredibly difficult, and you’re lucky if you knock off a few masterworks in that period. You bring up Woody Allen. Is anything better than [1979’s] Manhattan? I don’t think so. With Clint Eastwood, he’s never made a movie better than [1992’s] Unforgiven. That’s the reality. … Especially when you’re being reviewed in your own time frame, they’ll say, “It’s never better than [1980's] Dressed To Kill or Carrie.”
What do you consider your own peak, the best of who YOU are?
That’s really hard to say, the best of who I am. Most of the movies you thought you gave your heart and soul to were badly reviewed when they came out. You do take the arrows and slings of misfortune, and it affects your ability to make movies.