Due to recent circumstances Neeson was unable to join the interview, but luckily we had the opportunity to sit down with both Linney and Banderas – they couldn’t have been a more personable duo.
Here’s what they had to say about the film…
What about your characters resonated with you? What drew you to the project?
Laura Linney: I wasn’t really attracted to the role, to be honest. I wanted to work with Liam again, work with Richard Eyre again, getting to know Antonio and work with him. I said yes almost before I even read the script. I just said “yes,” then I read the script. And I said guess what, this is my challenge.
Antonio Banderas: On my side, same thing. The quality of the people I was going to work with. I was more troubled by the character, in terms of knowing that I have to stay in a territory that was an unknown zone for me. It related to me when I read the script for the first time – when I met Richard he confirmed that. He said “well, yeah, I know you are not afraid to go for a character like that, who is in a way, quite pathetic, if you will.” ***SPOILER ALERT***The only thing real that I have is her (Linney). If don’t have her, I have nobody. I’m pretending, the whole entire time, to be somebody else. I think that’s what Richard Eyre was looking for - he took me to places, basically for inspiration, unknown places. Here’s a cliff, and you have to jump. You know at the end of this jump there’s gonna be rocks down there, but you’re gonna find water too. But that’s the whole entire feeling that I had when was doing the movie.
From an emotional standpoint, did you find it was difficult to justify your character’s infidelity?
LL: It’s complicated. There’s great value in looking at it from both perspectives. It’s sort of that way throughout the entire film. You can take one view point and one philosophy and watch and it will be a very different experience than watching it with a different philosophy. I’m finding I’m having a very hard time talking about it, or being clear. I’m contradicting myself all over the place whenever I discuss this film. But, you can decide that where she wanted to go is Lake Como, and she wanted to take her husband to Lake Como. Or you can say she’s leading him right to a further intimacy of herself. That she wanted him to know her completely.
I wanted to play it so that both points of view were possible. I wanted to leave it a mystery. So I played it in a way that many, I mean I have my own opinion about it. But I intentionally played it so that it would challenge an audience to figure it out.
Who WAS the “other” man?
AB: I was joking with Liam all the time, saying “you are the other man! The title is making reference to you!” But it was not true. There is a certain satisfaction in taking somebody and making that somebody happy. Fulfilling the dreams of that person. She sees this man, greets him in a certain way – provides him with a big chunk of reality. And that chunk of reality is personal. It’s almost like seeing a plant dying and giving it water. Then seeing the satisfaction of seeing the plant grow. There is a sense of honesty in the character Laura portrays, because I think in the end, clearly, she wants her husband to find out. There is a certain part at the end of the movie where all the characters come together – they recognize each other’s feelings. There’s a fantastic moment at the dinner party at the end of the movie where everyone says we shouldn’t recognize ourselves as good/bad – we are human beings. This is what it is. It explores that aspect of relationships. The movie has a big amount of reflection. It doesn’t give you straight answers, but the possibility of reflecting on things that are very gaping to the soul of human beings.
Richard Eyre has a solid directorial background in theatre. How does that impact the process on set?
LL: Liam and I actually did a production of Th Crucible with Richard Eyre, so it was like being at home for us, it was fantastic. But, yes, with directors who come from the theatre, not all of them, but they tend to understand actors in a deeper way than some people who are just trained in film. Not that one is better than the other but it’s just different. So there’s a much better sense of communication and a deeper connection, I find, with directors who really speak the same language there’s a real collaborative feel, which is essential in the theatre, and I feel essential in film.
Laura, you’ve worked with seasoned vets like Eyre and Eastwood, but your two upcoming films feature virgin directors (Leland Orser and Mark Ruffalo). How do the experiences compare?
LL: I’ve worked with a lot of first time directors, a lot a lot of them. Talent and experience is not the same thing – a combination of the two is wonderful. And sometimes a first time director…I mean they’re learning! So hopefully you’re there to help them learn. Leland and Mark were fantastic. They’re both very good actors so they’ve got a lot of experience themselves. I haven’t seen the films but on set I loved it – I had a great time. And they’re dear friends, and I wanted to help in any way I possibly could. I find the directors with the most experience - Clint, Richard, Harry – they roll with anything. Things that really rattle a first time director, experienced directors don’t even blink an eye. There’s an ease. They know the world’s not gonna fall a part. There’s a sense of acceptance about the chaos.
What percentage of your character choices reflected your own input versus Richard’s?
LL: There are so many layers that add to a film performance. We bring what we bring to the table, then Richard will guide one way or another – he’ll guide you to shift your change or behavior. It’s not so obvious in this. We all have moments where we contribute something.
AB: You give the best material that you have. It’s very difficult for us to know exactly what’s going to be in – but there are choices. I know how respectful you have to be of somebody’s idea. As actors, we can be called interpreters. We interpret someone’s ideas and you have to be very respectful of that because it’s his (Eyre’s) movie. What I cannot do is to fight the guy, and say “no no no” and get into a dynamic that is not creative. At a certain point you have to say, “ok, I get your point, I’m gonna go for it. Because YOU are directing the movie. Because YOU wrote this, because I am working for you. “
LL: We were employees. We are!
What do you hope to leave the audience with?
LL: I mean, I can’t presume what anybody’s gonna take away form this. That’s a question I can never answer for any film. I do know that it will provoke conversation. Whether it pisses people off, or they like it, or it makes them intrigued, thoughtful, wistful, melancholy. I think it will affect people in different ways. I think it’s a little provocative – for some people in a good way, some in an uncomfortable.
AB: Two couples going to a movie, they get out of the movie and they go for dinner. They’re going to be talking about it. They’re going be taking a lot of positions – people are going to support her, Liam – people will see me as a victim. So there are no answers.
The film hits limited theaters on September 25, 2009!