Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
First off all, the new JANE EYRE is all kinds of Gothic, spooky, tightly wound awesome. A big reason for that is that director Cary Joji Fukunaga (SIN NOMBRE) and lead actress Mia Wasikowska, who is one of the in-demand young actors around thanks to some extremely powerful performances in the first season of "In Treatment," DEFIANCE, THAT EVENING SUN, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, and most famously as the title character in Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
Fukunaga may seem like a strange choice to cover Charlotte Brontë's novel, which has been made into films for either television or the big screen more than 20 times. SIN NOMBRE was about a pair of young Hondurans riding the rails through Mexico to get to America. It's a violent, stark but searing tale that should be scene by everybody. So how did he get the JANE EYRE gig? Well, that's exactly what we talked about, along with some of the astonishing project Wasikowska has coming up. I met the pair in Chicago a couple weeks ago, and was immediately struck by the poise and beauty of the 20-year-old actress, whose hair is much shorter than it has been in many of her recent films (just above the shoulders) and is more soft spoken than I would have guessed, especially when paired with Fukunaga, who is a great storyteller. Together, they were a great team. I should add that I was their last in a long line of interviews they did that day, never an enviable place to be. Please enjoy Cary Fukunaga and Mia Wasikowska…
Capone: My challenge today will be to come up with any questions you haven’t heard in the last 12 hours.
Cary Joji Fukunaga: I challenge you. Three questions…
Capone: I’m usually not the last person of the day, but we’ve been in screenings all day.
CJF: What did you see today?
Capone: Robert Redford’s new film.
CJF: THE CONSPIRATOR? How was that one? The script wasn’t very good on that one.
Capone: Yeah… That explains a lot.
CJF: I can’t believe they made it so quickly.
Capone: Then OF GODS AND MEN, a French film with monks in Middle East. Really, really powerful stuff.
Capone: No, no it’s a feature, but it’s really kind of hardcore just in that these monks trying to decide whether to stay in this country and face certain death or leave. I think it’s a true story though, but really kind of devastating.
Over the years, as I’m sure you have, I've seen many versions of the JANE EYRE story. And my first reaction after having seen you film was, “They turned it into a ghost story, that’s awesome.” That’s a great idea to pull out those elements. What were some of the elements that you wanted to emphasize in this version of this tale that maybe other people hadn’t done before? What was going to be your take on it?
CJF: I actually wasn’t that familiar with other versions. I knew the Robert Stevenson version with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. I saw that around the same time I saw REBECCA, for example, and those kinds of films that were spooky, but not a mystery, but then kind of resolved at the end. For me, I always loved those films growing up and thought, “When I do my own JANE EYRE, I'm going to do a good modern version with the same sort of feel,” and I didn’t realize there were so many adaptations. Even after I signed onto the project, I didn’t realize until people were like “Have you seen this version?” I’m like “What version?” There were like two in the '90s, one in the 2000s…
Capone: Isn’t the BBC contractually obliged to do one every five to seven years?
CJF: [laughs] That’s that I’ve decided the crew should have written into the clause. I like to say that with the next one they are not going to be as lucky, because they wont have me and Michael [Fassbender].
Capone: That’s right. There’s actually been a lot of discussion about Michael being “too handsome" for the part.
CJF: I don’t think he’s handsome at all, and everyone seems to think he’s so good looking.
Capone: Certainly, I’ve seen him “handsomer,” but even if he is handsome, Rochester's personality certainly makes him ugly to a degree. So what do you think about those criticisms?
CJF: As much as people would probably like to say it, “Rochester shouldn’t be as good looking as Michael is,” I’m sure no women are really complaining that much after watching him for two hours.
Mia Wasikowska: Yeah, I don’t know why that keeps coming up. He’s got the right energy and spirit, and he’s got a real scary and vulnerable quality.
CJF: Yeah, when Michael smiles at you, you don’t know if he’s got a pick ready to stick in your heart or something.
Capone: You’ve got him at this really interesting point in his career where he’s just about to really became well known to the masses, I think. Most people like us know who he is, we’ve been following him for a few years, but he doesn’t have that baggage with him that a lot of better known actors would have brought, I think, to this role.
MW: People can still see him.
Capone: They don’t know what to expect. They don’t know if he’s awful or if he’s heroic or what, you’ve finally got him at this great moment.
MW: He’s still got mystery, like you don’t see him as “the actor,” you see him as the character still, I think. He’s not overexposed.
CJF: That’s true for both Mia and Michael. Even though Mia was in a hugely recognizable film, I still feel like she disappears into her roles.
Capone: That’s true, yeah and you don’t have a lot of baggage either, but people at least know who you are. They recognize you, especially after this past year. So let’s talk a little bit about pulling out those horror elements, because there are two or three genuine jump-out-of-your-seat moments in this movie.
CJF: What were they for you?
Capone: The one I remember is the one in the room where you had sound coming from the fireplace, and pretty much anytime the wife in the attic is dealt with in any way. Wasn’t there a moment where you kind of go up to that door and hear noises? There’s a couple like seriously creepy moments in the film. Was that the idea, to play those up a little bit?
CJF: Absolutely. In my first meeting with the writer, I said, “I want people to jump out of their seats in this one.”
Capone: Can you talk about the structure a little bit, because you kind of begin in the middle, and that’s not how it’s written if I remember correctly. Was that in the script, or was that something you wanted to try?
CJF: It’s in the script and it wasn’t perfectly executed. It’s one of those things where everything is a balance of like how much story you tell. In the original script version, you also saw Thornfield Hall burn down. Those are things I didn’t want to put in the film, so it’s a question of like, “How do you take what would be faithful to the novel, so you don’t lose characters that are important to Jane’s journey emotionally and physically, and put them in the structure of a film that allows you to treat all of them without having any sort of narrative speed bumps.
Essentially in the chronologic order of the story, the way Charlotte [Bronte] wrote it, when you get to that third part of the story with her coming to the Rivers house and convalescing, and coming to life again, it’s a huge, grinding-to-a-halt part of the story. By putting that in the beginning and then peppering it across the narrative; it creates a present tense that gives you just enough information about what that story will bring to her by the end, but also allows for a lot more intrigue in terms of flashbacks in the past and hopefully engages you all the way through. So, that was a great way to get into the story and still have all of the important elements.
Capone: It’s a nice mystery to build up as well. What is the driving force in Jane? A lot of what happens to her could have easily crushed a normal person.
MW: Exactly, which is why she’s such an incredible character, because she has a real self respect and a sense of self worth as well, and there’s nowhere really where that should have come from. She didn’t have a loving upbringing and she wasn’t surrounded by supportive people, and everything that she’s achieved is because of what she’s made herself, and that’s really incredible, especially given the things that she’s been through. She hasn’t let them damage her or make her a weaker character, if anything they’ve made her stronger. That’s sort of what makes her such an incredible character and such a great role model, for women in particular, but men as well, and I think if you take away the costumes and the period setting, her story is at the core, and it's a story that is still happening. It’s happened through generations.
Capone: Let’s not take away the costumes too fast. Your costume in particular looked so oppressive. The color, the weight, the material all look uncomfortable. Was that a huge part of playing Jane, just getting in those awful clothes?
MW: Yeah, it was so painful. The corset really gives you such an understanding of what it’s like to be in that time and the repression that women were under. You really understand how tough that that would have been. You can’t really bend over or reach up, and your breathing is restricted. It’s intense.
Capone: Even you hair is kind of just pulled back incredibly tight.
MW: I know. Like everything, it’s such a metaphor for the constraint.
Capone: The relationship between Mrs. Fairfax and Jane has been, I think, played in different ways. Sometimes, it’s more adversarial, but here it seems like she’s more of a surrogate mother or mentor, and she's one of the few people that actually does seem to have Jane's best interests in mind most of the time. Can you talk a little bit about making that choice to have them be more comrades.
MW: I think Judi [Dench] just has a warmth anyway, and she brought that kind of maternal instinct. It’s in her, but I don’t know… you guys discuss that. [Laughs]
CJF: I didn’t want it to be an obvious maternal thing either, but Judi wanted it played more that way. I wouldn’t have minded it being more like Mrs. Fairfax be a bit more devious in terms of her intentions, but I think Judi was interested in knowing what Mrs. Fairfax is aware of and how intelligent she was.
MW: How much she knew.
CJF: I think we both kind of agree that she wasn’t the smartest. She wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
MW: She means well, but she’s not…
CJF: She believes in old class rules and those sorts of things.
Capone: Did you deliberately seek out something completely different than what you did with SIN NOMBRE, in terms of the story and the source material? Was that a deliberate thing or did you just sort of hear about this and go “That sounds like a good direction to go in from here.”
CJF: No, there’s no grand strategy in terms of what I’m doing, it’s just like I did SIN NOMBRE and I was in the UK promoting it and then I found out about this and I was like “I’ll hang out in England for a couple of years.” That’s where I’ve been, and I don’t know what’s next now.
Capone: You don’t have any idea where you would like to go from here?
CJF: No. I suppose the people who are trying to guide my career would like me to do a film in America at some point, being that I’m American, but I haven’t done that yet. Maybe I will. I don’t know. [Laughs]
Capone: Was there an issue about you being American on this film, coming in from the outside?
CJF: I think there was an initial distrust in some ways, at least from the crew’s side about this outside director. But I think from the producer’s standpoint I think it was more exciting for them with an outsider doing it. It’s hard too, I think, when you are young and you come into a film set, because it’s a big sort of power play where people are questioning your authority, which is also hard.
MW: But you have to have a certain confidence, and I think if you grew up in a society that’s so aware of the importance of that story, not that you weren’t aware of it, but it could be a real issue for some.
CJF: An inhibitor, yeah. Of course, I had zero reverence for it. I liked the story, but I don’t subscribe to the church of any sort of Bronte work. So for me, it was just a good story.
Capone: And any time a piece of literature this revered gets done again, there is a certain responsibility about what a new generation is going to find in this version of it. You will have your hardcore fans that will come to every adaptation of every one of these sort of films, but then the idea is to get a newer audience to see it and love it. Is this a film that you want younger women or girls to come see?
MW: It feels to me a very modern story.
CJF: I’m hoping this like goes into the frat houses too [laughs] and they make drinking games out of it, that it crosses all of the quadrants and not just young women.
MW: Slumber parties. It does feel modern to me, but it still feels really relevant to people today, and if anything I would hope that it would encourage people to read the book.
Capone: What kind of digging did you into other film versions of this story?
MW: I didn’t watch any of the versions, because partially I was overwhelmed by how many there were and I also didn’t want to get influenced by them even in ways that I may not of been aware of. So I haven’t really watched the other versions. I had an idea of her in my head and I thought that was strong enough, and I wanted to put that down the way that I saw her. When I think about it, it probably would have been fine to watch them, it’s just that there were so many, and we had two weeks of rehearsals and I would have spent the whole two weeks watching JANE EYRE interpretations. [laughs]
Capone: True. Cary, you've already said you don’t have anything solid coming up next, but Mia, you are like the hardest working woman in show business right now. I did want to talk about one thing in particular. I think you are doing something with Rodrigo Garcia, who you worked with on "In Treatment," which is actually the first time I ever saw your work. Can you talk a little about that film?
MW: Yes. Rodrigo cast me in the first thing I ever did in America, which was "In Treatment," and he’s been an ongoing supportive force for me, and so I just jumped at the opportunity to do something with him again. I got an email like late at night like “Rodrigo Garcia, ALBERT NOBBS offer.” I was like “I’ll do it! I haven’t read it, but I’ll do it.” It was great. Glenn Close wrote the script and has had the rights to the story for 10 years. She played the character in an off-Broadway show, and it’s a really original story with really great characters, and we just shot that in Ireland for two months.
Capone: Is that another one of his ensemble pieces?
MW: Yeah, he continues to bring up some of the most interesting female characters and definitely out of the characters that I’ve gotten to play, he seems to give me the most interesting characters, and I can’t thank him enough for that. I think he’s a genius filmmaker and I hope people will like that one.
Capone: Are you really making a film with Chan-wook Park?
Capone: Is that for real? What is that?
MW: It’s called STOKER and it’s about a girl who’s father has just passed away, and she’s got a rocky dynamic with her mom, and then her uncle turns up and things go haywire.
Capone: When does the fighting start? When does the slaughter begin?
MW: [laughs] That’s right. It’s all in there.
Capone: That’s a great cast [including Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman], too. Well, I know you guys have got to catch a flight, thank you so much. Good to meet you.
MW: Great to meet you.
-- Capone email@example.com
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