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Tag Archives: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
PARIS—With its wrong-man plot and stunning locations of Paris and Venice, The Tourist, starring Angeline Jolie and Johnny Depp , evokes a bygone age of Hollywood glamour and globetrotting peril. That, according to its stars, is no accident.
Jolie, who plays Elise, an Englishwoman with a secret, says the challenge was to capture the sparkle and grace of an old-fashioned suspense thriller without making the film feel like a museum piece.
“We watched To Catch a Thief,” she said in the five-star Hotel Meurice, a stone’s throw from the Seine. “And there were lots of other things we were supposed to watch. I became more aware of those periods. But at the same time, you want to watch those movies, but you don’t want to mimic. We wanted to make it modern, so I was nervous; I didn’t want to make it too precious.”
Jolie explained how the film’s old-world glamour and intrigue was a perfect antidote to some of her more athletic escapades on-screen of late, like the thriller Salt — and a nice chance to do a little sightseeing.
“Is it an action film? I actually did it because of the opposite, kind of. For me, it wasn’t action; maybe there’s action in it, but I didn’t get to participate as much,” she said.
“I had finished Salt, and Brad (Pitt) was to work next, and he had a small delay in his film. So we had a few months, and I questioned if there was anything out there that shot in a great location. Honestly, that was the phone call I made.”
Once Jolie came on board, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — whose acclaimed debut, the East German surveillance drama The Lives of Others, is far removed from The Tourist’s gleaming beauty — was signed to direct and then Depp joined the project.
He plays an American math teacher on vacation who gets caught up Elise’s web of lies, deceit and danger as she charms him into following her as she is being tailed by Scotland Yard.
Depp, for his part, felt no shame in playing to the crowd as Frank Tupelo, a Wisconsin teacher mistaken for an English swindler who’s bilked a mobster for billions — including fleeing for his life across Venice’s tiled roofs in bare feet and flannel pajamas.
“I think initially, the guy was supposed to be either in a towel or in his underpants, I can’t remember. But there was something about the image of a grown man in pajamas; they look like something that you’d pull out of the Leave It to Beaver dad’s drawer,” said Depp. “That image, juxtaposed with the background of Venice, I thought that there was something really funny about it.”
Added Depp: “I’m a real sucker. If I see a gag coming around the corner, I snatch it up immediately. I can’t help myself. You spend nine-tenths of the time trying to make your costar laugh, and I guess some of it’s in the film.”
At the same time, Depp’s willingness to go for a gag wasn’t without consequences, as von Donnersmarck explained.
“I had a terrible time on that rooftop (scene), because I had not computed how these Venetian tiles are incredibly rough. And (Depp) was running along there and we shot that scene for a few hours,” von Donnersmarck said. “At one point I felt he was getting a little slower and I went up there and said, ‘It’s getting a little slower; I need this to be in full speed.” And he said, ‘I’m trying, but it’s hurting a little. . . ’”
“There were traces of blood over the whole roof!” von Donnersmarck said. “He’d cut up his feet and hadn’t said anything because he didn’t want to slow up the shoot! I felt terribly guilty. I went home thinking, ‘I didn’t get into this to make actors bleed.’ But that’s the kind of actor Johnny is.”
It wasn’t all agony, though, according to Jolie.
“There’s some footage floating around I’m surprised hasn’t surfaced. Good God, it was 20 minutes, half an hour — there was a good run where we could not stop laughing. There was a good, solid . . . we wasted a lot of film. I got a lot of producers a little frustrated because we just couldn’t get through it, we just couldn’t stop laughing.”
And even with battered feet, Depp sees The Tourist’s charm and elegance — and his masquerade as a regular-guy math teacher — as enough of a departure from his work in big-budget fantasies like Alice in Wonderland or the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
“I’m still doing the same bits, just trying something different each time, exploring something new; that’s what’s important, just keep challenging myself and try to come up with some new faces every now and again,” he said.
“Many years ago, Marlon Brando asked me, ‘How many films do you do per year, kid?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, maybe three or something.’ And he said, ‘That’s too much. We only have so many faces in our pockets.’ It’s really true . . . but I still feel like I got a few faces in my pocket.”
Angelina Jolie, looking the model of the modern movie starlet in Paris, isn’t ashamed to admit that a lot of the reason for signing on to her latest film, “The Tourist,” was purely scenic. Even before “The Lives of Others” director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck was signed to direct, the Venice and Paris settings inspired her to step into the space in her family’s schedule left by the collapse of husband Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball” to take a role as a woman of mystery embroiled with Johnny Depp’s roaming Wisconsin math teacher.
“Brad’s film was delayed, and I said, ‘Well, is there anything out there that shoots in a great location? Because I don’t want to drag all the kids to another tough place for right now, ‘” she says. “They said, ‘There’s a film that shoots in Venice and Paris.’ I said, ‘Fantastic. Send me that one. What is that?’ And then, hope was, we’d find a great European director, and Florian was my favorite and my first choice, and it all just came together.”
Jolie winds up spending the majority of the film wearing beautiful ensembles in beautiful locations — again, while not exactly a difficult gig, also something demanded by the script and the Hitchcock-lite tone the film was shooting for. “I knew that we had to try for something elegant and beautiful,” she says. “It’s not a great, intellectual film; it’s not a big, emotional, deep film — it’s a lovely caper, so it had to be beautiful; it had to be special and fun. The scenery, the clothes and all that was important, so we had to figure that out.”
No costume or piece of couture, of course, was as important as Jolie’s co-star Johnny Depp. “He’s such a brilliant actor,” she says. “He’s just brilliant and sort of natural. He’s so giving. So it was just a pleasure. It was so much fun.” Perhaps too much fun. When I ask Jolie if there are lengthy scenes on the cutting-room floor of her and Depp cracking up, she smiles a knowing smile. “Very lengthy takes of that,” she says. “There were very angry producers and a lot of wasted film between the two of us just not being able to contain our laughter.”
There also, I suggest, had to be plenty of lost time from the difficulties of shooting in Venice’s palaces and canals. “There was,” she says, “but as an actor, we were kept from a lot of that. We kind of come out when it’s all sorted, and you think, ‘Ah, it looks so beautiful … As if by magic. Look at that: Venice is lit up at night, and the canals are perfect.’ So the crew really takes the credit for somehow making it work and figuring it out.”
Considering the end of the year’s slew of darker, dour dramas intended for Oscar consideration, I ask Jolie if she hoped that “The Tourist” and its light, bright charms would be a chance for moviegoers to enjoy something glossier and lighter during the holiday season. “I hope so, yeah,” she says. “I hope that people see it that way, and have some fun.”
Sitting down to talk in Paris, Johnny Depp — hair still at Capt. Jack lengths, gold teeth still plugged in his head from working on “Pirates of the Caribbean IV,” and the most tan human being in a 500-mile radius — is a far cry from Frank Tupelo, the perfectly average middle-American math teacher he plays in “The Tourist.” Was it, I ask, a pleasure to play someone so extraordinarily ordinary? “Oh, most definitely,” he says. “That was what intrigued me. I loved the story, to sort of attack this thing ahead known as the ordinary man. Not too many highs, not too many lows; just kind of glides along through life. This guy is put into a situation that’s completely abnormal and highly sensitive and unpleasant.”
And Depp also relished creating a part from the original script — an exercise that gave the world’s most eccentric movie star a chance to work out some ideas of his own. “The idea was to make him really the everyman, the math teacher who has a slight amount of obsessive-compulsive disorder and his weird routines and things like that in the script,” he says. “The idea was to take this guy, this normal guy, and put him into these situations that are certainly less than normal, these kind of high-stakes situations.”
Beyond playing a classic thriller protagonist — the average man in a deeply odd circumstance — Depp also relished the chance to work with director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in his studio film debut and with Angelina Jolie. “I watched ‘The Lives of Others,’” he says, “and I thought Florian’s work was really teetering on the flawless, just kind of up in the ranks of ‘Chinatown.’ Incredible work. I just thought to see this guy enter this arena would be interesting, so I was very intrigued by that, certainly. And then the opportunity to work with Angelina — I admire her greatly.”
I ultimately ask Depp if playing in a film with so much old-school glamour — with Tupelo leaping across Venice’s tiled roofs running for his life or showing up at a black-tie gala to try to save the day — was, for him, the biggest pleasure of starring in “The Tourist.” “Most definitely,” he says. “I mean, yeah, of course. Because there’s a sliver of it that initially reminded me of Hitchcock, like ‘North by Northwest,’ this guy that ends up in these situations that seem to go worse and worse and worse. There’s a (sense of) classic cinema to it. I think Florian really stuck to that.” “The Tourist” opens nationwide this Friday. You will be calling your travel agent to price out trips to Venice by noon Saturday.