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Quint geeks out with MOON's Duncan Jones and Sam Rockwell!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. This was a particularly fun interview. I was in London for a Narnia edit bay visit, if I remember correctly last year when I met Duncan Jones for the first time. I announced on the site I’d be in Ol’ Blighty and received an email from him saying if I had a spare moment that he was shooting an independent movie called MOON starring Sam Rockwell and I was welcome to come by for a bit. I took him up on the offer and was a little shocked when I met him. I only found out a few hours before that Duncan was David Bowie’s son, but if I didn’t know before I met him I would have guessed it right off. He’s got a lot of his father in his face, but he’s got geek in his eyes… and on his chest, actually. When I met him he was wearing a Clockwork Orange shirt. They showed me the sets, which looked like Ridley Scott’s ALIEN and Lucas’ original STAR WARS set design… functional and used. I didn’t really see enough for a full report, but I was excited for the movie. When I finally got to see it the film was everything I wanted it to be, a sci-fi film in the vein of SILENT RUNNING, a quiet and thoughtful piece told with old school tricks of the trade. We talk quite a bit about the model work in the film below. I did this interview in person with Duncan and Sam when they were in town for SXSW and considering the flick opens in limited release today, I figured it was a good time to unleash upon the masses. Duncan was clearly hungover, having enjoyed Sixth Street a bit and we start off talking about his adventures the night before. Enjoy the chat!

Duncan Jones: I met up with a couple of my buddies from the UK who came over here and then we found out that someone else was in town and we were texting them, trying to find out where they were. We kept chasing them and every time we got to where they were, they had already moved on, so it was like “drink move, drink move.” Sam Rockwell: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Quint: You can definitely do that in this city. Did you just stay on 6th Street?

Duncan Jones: Where was the place… Sam Rockwell: 6th Street, yeah. We went to Polvos and had a couple of Margaritas, then I went home and he kept going. You are bad! Bad!

Quint: You made the right decision, since you’re ready for the day now.

Sam Rockwell: Yeah. He was on time, though. I was late!

[Everyone Laughs]

Quint: Cool man, well it’s been a while since I went over to the set. I was catching my plane if I remember right…

Duncan Jones: For PRINCE CASPIAN or…?

Quint: That was the edit bay visit, yeah for CASPIAN and I had put on the site that I was going and Duncan emails and it’s like “Hey, do you want to come see this…?” and I had talked to you (Sam) briefly at Sundance for CHOKE and you were talking about MOON there and so I was like “Oh sure, I know that project.” I show up and I’m walking around these ALIEN-like hallways…

Sam Rockwell: Right. I had the beard then probably, right?

Quint: At Sundance? Yeah.

Sam Rockwell: It was a big ass beard.

Duncan Jones: That’s right, because everyone was asking what the hell that was about. (laughs) You were incognito.

Quint: “It’s my Sundance beard.”

Sam Rockwell: (laughs) Yeah. “I just grew it for Sundance. Grew it in four days.”

Quint: But that visit was really cool. I loved the feel on the set. It reminded me so much of ALIEN and SILENT RUNNING and 2001.

Duncan Jones: Did you feel like you had stepped back into the seventies when you came to our film set?

Quint: A bit, yeah, but I think that’s actually a bit of the appeal for the movie having seen it. It does feel like a throwback. It’s not like anything that’s made now. You can’t get a movie like that out of the studio system, because they just aren’t interested. They want the newest toys and the old toys are what makes this movie work.

Duncan Jones: They want everything to look like iPhones as well. When it comes to technology, they want lots of glass and holograms.

Quint: It has to be used!

Duncan Jones: And “Lay-zors.” (laughs)

Quint: Oh no. So was it difficult then getting the movie off of the ground? I can imagine.

Duncan Jones: Well at our budget, because it was around five million dollars, it was a challenge getting the money, but the real challenge was convincing people we could make the film for that kind of money. Sam Rockwell: Three million was for making it and the two million was for post or no? Duncan Jones: I can’t even begin to… When you really think about it in pounds…

Quint: It was for Sam’s salary.

Sam Rockwell: Okay, okay. Duncan Jones: (laughs) No, it wasn’t! Trust me! He’s been paid in merch!

Quint: Well, you don’t have many other actors to pay, so you can just throw all of the acting budget at Sam.

Sam Rockwell: That sounds awesome.

Quint: Did you prepare anything then, to prove that you could make it? Did you have a show reel?

Duncan Jones: I have a background in commercials, so my show reel really was commercials and then I worked with an amazing concept artist, a guy called Gavin Rothery, and we did a 3D tour of the base actually. I think we did it in Studio MAX and it was just geometry, there wasn’t any texture mapping or anything to it, but it gave you a really good impression of what the inside of the base would look like. So there were a couple of things that were slick to try and do the presentation, one or two pieces of concept artwork, but it was really the script that gave us the opportunity. People really liked it and thought it was really interesting.

Quint: Cool and I assume that’s what grabbed your attention, Sam. I don’t imagine many scripts like MOON come to you where you have the challenge of carrying the entire film just on your shoulders.

Sam Rockwell: No, that’s exactly it. It was a great challenge and it was a good script and that’s basically what brought me to it, yeah.

Quint: I’m sure you also got to play a little bit with duality and things as well. There are some pretty heavy concepts you can play with in there.

Sam Rockwell: Absolutely, but Duncan just seemed like a great guy and a smart guy and it just seemed like it would just be fun and it was only… How long was the shoot? Five weeks? Six weeks? Duncan Jones: Just over five weeks or something like that. It was fast. Sam Rockwell: So it would be fast and it’s like “Why not do it?” Duncan Jones: It wasn’t until we just started shooting when he realized just how exhausting it…

Quint: The “why not!”

Duncan Jones: Yeah, that’s when “the why not?” started. (laughs) Sam Rockwell: Well you know, you do something like that or you do something like CHOKE in thirty days or 25 days and I’ve done a few more of those like that and then you are like “Fuck, I can do anything after that.” You feel kind of indestructible after something like that, you know? We felt it was like “how the fuck are we going to do this?” But we did it.

Duncan Jones: IRON MAN is going to be a cake walk. Sam Rockwell: There you go. Exactly!

Quint: You have a little more than thirty days.

Sam Rockwell: Yeah we have a little more than thirty days with IRON MAN.

Quint: That’s cool. I know Favreau a little bit. He’s a great guy and I assume by now you have met Peter Billingsley and all of those people.

Sam Rockwell: Yeah I’ve known Billingsley from way back. I met Favreau and Vince from MADE and we made MADE together.

Quint: Oh yeah? I love MADE.

Sam Rockwell: It will be a lot of fun.

Quint: I love how Favreau has kind of positioned himself now. He was able to really deliver with the last IRON MAN and using a lot of the same techniques that you were doing where he was using primarily practical work to ground the effects. I could be mistaken, but I would assume most of the computer work would be in the compositing? Getting the two Sams in there?

Duncan Jones: There were different plans for the interiors and the exteriors. For the interiors, most of it is in camera, obviously we then had split screens for all of the two Sams stuff and then when Gertie moves around the base, that becomes a CG element, but we actually do have a full sized Gertie model that whenever he was static, we were using that. Sam Rockwell: That’s a beautiful shot in the morning with Gertie and I am in the background. He goes “How’s your hand?” and I go “Oh fine.” You know that shot? That’s a great shot. It just looks really streamlined.

Quint: When I was there Gertie only had the plastic smiley face icon and I think then you told me that you would be using CG to go between the different emoticons.

Duncan Jones: That’s right and again, where we could get away with it, we left it the way it was, but when we had those transitions, we had to do some replacement on the faces.

Quint: That’s where you use the technology. I think the reason why I liked it and the reason why Harry flipped for it so much was because it is… We love model work so much. We love the model stuff and there’s nothing like seeing like those rover shots when it’s driving across the surface of the moon. It’s nostalgic for most of us, but it’s also real. It’s there. It’s tangible.

Duncan Jones: I don’t know if you got the chance to see the models when you came to the set.

Quint: I didn’t see any of the big stuff. I saw some of the vehicles.

Duncan Jones: Okay, because the guy who did that is Bill Pearson, who worked on the Nostromo for the original ALIEN and all of those guys are still based at Sheperton and they were, during our film, they were saying “Look, when your film is finished, we are probably going to have to close down. No one is using models anymore. There’s just not any work to do.” I think all of a sudden off of the back of our film, they seemed to have a new lease of life. There seems to be a lot more films where maybe not the whole way through, but they have elements where they are going to be using more physical elements than maybe they used to.

Quint: They are all tools. I remember when ILM shut down its physical effects department and switched completely to digital effects it was extremely sad.

Duncan Jones: It’s a skill set that’s going to take a while to replace. If they ever want to go back that way, it’s going to take time, because those guys have years and years of experience and you can’t just regain it.

Quint: They have been building on it since the first days of cinema. That’s the difference, yeah.

Sam Rockwell: It’s just not the same and Fav, really that was a good use of CGI though and it made everything look very real, but the practical stuff were those robots I guess with Downey?

Quint: And the suit and he kind of has the perfect character to utilize CG with, being metal…

Sam Rockwell: The suit was practical and CGI. The other suit was mostly CGI?

Quint: The silver one? It’s almost all CGI… or did you mean the first one, the one in the caves?

Sam Rockwell: That’s practical.

Quint: I’m sure there were shots, but it’s easier to do for him being able to do it that way, merging the CG, because it’s armor. It’s easier to make it photo realistic non-organic characters, but yeah I love the way he looks at film and the way he approaches film. Anything that keeps those old school effects alive I think is good. Favreau and Peter Jackson are two people that have a big focus on using model work and that stuff.

Sam Rockwell: Peter Jackson recreated a scene in KING KONG with (stop-motion), did you know that?

Quint: For the ’33 KING KONG DVD, yeah.

Sam Rockwell: Yeah, but he just did it as an experiment. He didn’t do it for any other reason, just to see if somebody could do it again. It was the scene where he fights the dinosaur I think.

Quint: It was the bug pit, the legendary lost scene that he recreated in his movie, but they actually shot it and the footage has just been missing. It’s like LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, one of those lost things where it’s after KONG throws the log and all of the sailors fall into the pit…

Sam Rockwell: They shot it?

Quint: They shot it and there are stills that have come out and they looked at the original script and they looked at maybe a dozen stills from the scene and there are a couple of stills of Willis O’Brien working on it, so they tried to recreate it and they used that process where there they achieve depth… where you have things set up in the foreground and you have things set up like eight feet away for the midground. That’s the magic of movies to me.

Sam Rockwell: Ray Harryhausen?

Quint: Willis O’Brien did KONG and Harryhausen worked with him… Willis O’Brien was Harryhausen’s mentor and they worked together on MIGHTY JOE YOUNG.

Sam Rockwell: Oh, I see. And then he went on to go do SINBAD and all of that stuff.

Quint: Yeah. All of the SINBAD movies…


Quint: 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and THE EARTH VERSUS THE FLYING SAUCERS. That’s all Harryhausen. So, we’ve completely gone off track, but yeah… It just goes back to what I dug about the movie. You play with the elements of filmdom that you could easily have skimped on or glossed over. You could have made it…

Duncan Jones: Well, there’s lots of little kind of retro homages in there. It was great with the audience last night getting the “clapper” joke and things like that. Sam Rockwell: And the haircut thing. That’s a real haircut device!

Duncan Jones: It’s the Flowbee! I thought it was fun that we were able to put those in there and not do it in a way that was too distracting to the story.

Quint: It’s not just in the visual effects, but tonally I think… SILENT RUNNING… I just keep seeing SILENT RUNNING where it’s just deliberately paced, but not boring… It’s really hard to hit that mix.

Sam Rockwell: He’s amazing in that. We watched it before…

Quint: Bruce Dern?

Sam Rockwell: Yeah. He’s so intense in that. Have you ever seen BLACK SUNDAY?

Quint: Oh yeah. With Robert Shaw.

Sam Rockwell: He’s out of his mind in that! He’s great with the psychos.

Quint: Have you seen THE COWBOYS?

Sam Rockwell: No, what’s that?

Quint: It’s a later John Wayne movie…

Sam Rockwell: Oh, I have seen that. He’s like a bad guy or something?

Quint: He is the main bad guy, but it’s like John Wayne and this posse of kids. So John Wayne is this father figure and he has a cook, an awesome character actor… I can’t remember his name right now.

Sam Rockwell: Strother Martin?

Kraken: (on his iPhone) Roscoe Lee Brown.

Quint: Roscoe Lee Brown! Yeah, he’s badass in the movie. He just died recently.

Duncan Jones: [To Kraken] Have you got IMDB up?

Kraken: Yeah. He’s got a great character name in the movie, it’s Jebediah Nightlinger.

Quint: Alright, they’re kicking me out. It was good talking to you guys.

Yeah, great movie geek discussion kind of evolved there at the end. I know that pisses some people off, but for me those tangents are why I do these interviews. Real movie geek conversation is what I strive for. I hope you guys dug the chat and if you like original storytelling and practical effects and model work… and, of course, great filmmaking then seek out MOON if it’s playing near you. If it is and you don’t see it then the rest of the country won’t get a chance either! -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback
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  • June 12, 2009, 7:10 p.m. CST


    by Trannyformers_Apologist

    in 3 years?

  • June 12, 2009, 7:30 p.m. CST


    by nolan bautista

    ..Sam Rockwell was the best part of "The Green Mile"

  • June 12, 2009, 7:33 p.m. CST

    choke was so disappointing

    by animas

    wasnt that shit rated pg or some crap

  • June 12, 2009, 7:55 p.m. CST

    Great interview, but that's gotta suck...

    by bongo123

    That you have to leave just when you start to get into it with what seemed like a bunch of cool guys, I know it would piss me off cause I'd be like right lads lets hit a bar get drunk and talk movies, anyways I'll be draggin my mates to this one looks a fantastic flick

  • June 12, 2009, 7:58 p.m. CST

    Tangents rock, make life interesting. Fact.

    by SoylentMean

    I want to see this movie dammit.

  • June 12, 2009, 8:24 p.m. CST


    by BillyMayesHere


  • June 12, 2009, 8:25 p.m. CST

    Apologies about the CAPS...

    by BillyMayesHere

    it was an accident.

  • June 12, 2009, 8:32 p.m. CST

    I have to see this.

    by Nickn328

    I might drive 90 minutes to New York City just to see this, that's how bad I want to.

  • June 12, 2009, 8:47 p.m. CST


    by Johnny Smith

    Nope, the news lies. No spoilers there.

  • June 12, 2009, 9:07 p.m. CST

    When does this arrive in Tokyo?

    by takapa

    We never get the good stuff here.

  • June 12, 2009, 9:42 p.m. CST

    takapa, no good stuff in Tokyo?

    by SoylentMean

    But don't you all have tons of Godzilla stuff available on every street corner? At least that's how I imagine Tokyo to be...

  • June 12, 2009, 10:08 p.m. CST


    by BringingSexyBack

    I'm gonna see Moon. Really anxious now. Thanks!

  • June 12, 2009, 10:09 p.m. CST


    by TheNewDirector

  • June 12, 2009, 10:39 p.m. CST

    I don't know...

    by wampa 1

    ...but it sure smells good!

  • June 12, 2009, 10:47 p.m. CST

    How come they rarely do weightlessness in space movies?

    by Orionsangels

  • June 12, 2009, 10:59 p.m. CST

    Johnny Smith

    by BillyMayesHere

    Cool. thanks dude.

  • June 12, 2009, 11:03 p.m. CST

    Good interview. Love the tangents too.

    by Octaveaeon

    And I'm watching this movie. <p>Hopefully soon. <p>Eventually. <p> Maybe. <p> I'm still pissed off no distributor here in Holland put The Fountain on the big screen. But I'm hoping that won't happen with this one. So y'all better watch this one or I'm screwed. <p> Again.

  • June 12, 2009, 11:05 p.m. CST


    by PennsyDeux

  • June 12, 2009, 11:38 p.m. CST


    by ltgalloway

    If memory serves, the moon has 1/6th the gravity of Earth, so it's not entirely zero gravity. But you're right. There does seem to be some kind of artificial gravity at use in his habitat. That would make sense for both story and practical filming. Astronauts loose substantial muscle mass when they are left in space for extended periods and 3 years in low gravity would probably mean lots of physical therapy when he returned to Earth.

  • June 12, 2009, 11:45 p.m. CST

    I'm glad

    by red_weed

    this has some kind of release date for Australia (according to IMDB that is) cos even though i have to wait till september I should at least have a chance of seeing this in a cinema

  • June 13, 2009, 12:02 a.m. CST

    I need to see this

    by Tin Snoman

    It would be nice if Moon could help bring back model work. CG has made filmmakers lose their fool minds.

  • June 13, 2009, 12:26 a.m. CST

    How come they rarely do weightlessness in space movies?

    by Lashlarue

    The moon has gravity.

  • June 13, 2009, 12:39 a.m. CST

    Slightly feels like a modern-day "Space: 1999"

    by Pizza The Hut

    That show needs to have a come-back as a somewhat re-imagined Space: 2099, on big screen or small.

  • June 13, 2009, 1:03 a.m. CST

    Cool that the old ALIEN guys are Still At It!

    by cymbalta4thedevil

    Wonder if Ridley would return to Shepperton for his Alien prequel? If you're gonna go retro,go back to where the magic started...

  • June 13, 2009, 1:05 a.m. CST

    They don't do Zero G...

    by ROBRAM89

    ...because walking on the ground costs nothing.

  • June 13, 2009, 2:06 a.m. CST

    Choke sucked as a book, even worse as a movie.

    by mitortilla

    Sam Rockwell is amazing.

  • June 13, 2009, 2:56 a.m. CST

    looking forward to this one. Been

    by Dingbatty

    disappointed so far, this summer.

  • June 13, 2009, 5:51 a.m. CST

    red_weed - Australia release date

    by DuckyChaos

    Asked Duncan Jones on Twitter if/when it was going to be released in Australia. He said he wasn't sure when, but it would be released.

  • June 13, 2009, 7:25 a.m. CST


    by BringingSexyBack

  • June 13, 2009, 7:56 a.m. CST

    Trailer really gives way too much away!

    by quantize

    Still, i'm there...even Sunshine for all it's faults was the kind of sci-fi i really enjoy.

  • June 13, 2009, 10:55 a.m. CST


    by Orionsangels

    Well I hope they show how the artificial gravity is created, like 2001 & 2010

  • June 13, 2009, 10:56 a.m. CST

    ROBRAM89, I want realism in my realistic space movies

    by Orionsangels

  • June 13, 2009, 1:27 p.m. CST

    I thought there was a full MOON...

    by DrMorbius

    last night, but it was only<P>URANUS!

  • June 13, 2009, 2:12 p.m. CST

    Boring Interview

    by one_guy_from_andromeda

    Really looking forward to the film though, looks good. But that's not what i'm writing about. I'm writing about this: "he’s got geek [...] on his chest [...] When I met him he was wearing a Clockwork Orange shirt."<p> Since when is Clockwork Orange geeky? It's not like it's Star Wars or some or one of these children's cartoons they make into blockbusters these days.

  • June 13, 2009, 2:13 p.m. CST


    by one_guy_from_andromeda

    You know there's _real_ gravity on the moon, don't you?

  • June 14, 2009, 12:01 p.m. CST

    the ironmonger suit's torso was practical head

    by ironic_name

  • June 14, 2009, 12:02 p.m. CST

    the ironmonger suit's torso was practical, head and limbs weren'

    by ironic_name

    fucking stupid enter biutton. and i button.

  • June 14, 2009, 12:04 p.m. CST

    and bruce dern was fucking creepy in black sunday

    by ironic_name

  • June 14, 2009, 12:29 p.m. CST


    by Charlie_Allnut

    Really looking forward to this, hopefully we can see a resurgence of truly creative film making.

  • June 14, 2009, 12:45 p.m. CST

    I hope this...

    by Dr.DirtyD

    Doesn't start a new trend of tones of movies coming out with good practical special effects and no story. <P>I haven't seen this film yet. I just noticed the whole conversation seemed to be Practical Effects=good, CGI=bad. <P>That worries me: just because it doesn't use CGI, should it get an instant pass? <P>It's all about what happens on screen, not what everything is made of.

  • June 14, 2009, 1:53 p.m. CST

    Silent Running meets Solaris then, yes?

    by BiggusDickus

    I'm up for some of that!

  • June 14, 2009, 8:50 p.m. CST

    CHOKE (the book) was hilarious

    by frank cotton

    this looks good, and makes me want to watch SILENT RUNNING again, for some reason