Friday, March 29, 2013

Commentary Tracks - Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast (2000) with producer Jeremy Thomas and star Ben Kingsley

Comments on the Film

On the location and opening scene
Jeremy Thomas This is the villa that Gal lives in, and we had great difficulty finding this villa because we needed a swimming pool next to a rock face – you'll see why we needed that a little bit later – but it was very hard because people don't build swimming pools under rock faces that are about to collapse. But after a lot of searching we found this villa, and that's why we chose to shoot there. This is why we needed the rock face – ouch! In fact, it was quite dangerous because while that rock was made of fibreglass it would still do a lot of damage. We had a large net on the other side of the pool to restrain the rock, which could have bounced off and destroyed the village.

On the themes of the film
Ben Kingsley These are warnings that this group get of some nemesis, some approaching day of reckoning. The rock first, then the exploding barbecue, and later on you'll see a sequence involving guns, which is actually very funny, but which shows them to be in a sense defenceless and idyllic in this paradise they're in. I've done a lot of interviews for Sexy Beast with the press, it's a wonderful film to talk about, and I try to reduce the film to a sort of one-line myth. I came up with: "Once upon a time, there was a man who thought he was very happy, so the Gods sent to him the unhappiest man in the world." That image of the little boy with the gun  in fact every image in this sequence  there is an equal and opposite image later in the film. Even the rabbit turns into some haunting monster in Gal's dreams. The gun that the little boy has later appears in the film. This whole sequence sets up how vulnerable and innocent they are. They're like children.

On Jonathan Glazer and the script
JT Jonathan Glazer was very well-known in London for music videos and television commercials and an assistant of mine had been showing me his work for a number of years, and it was mighty impressive, it was as good as it gets in that area. One day I got a draft of a screenplay written by two playwrights, Louis Mellis and David Scinto, and it was to be directed by Jonathan Glazer. It was presented to me on a Friday and I was told that it was going to a number of producers that day. I read it over the weekend with a group of people who work with me, we all thought it was absolutely fantastic, and on Monday we put in an offer and got hold of the script. That was a very lucky weekend. It's very unusual to get a screenplay that was so unusual to read, and you could immediately see and smell a movie.

On the restaurant scene
JT The cinema is such a strange thing because this scene was shot on the first day of filming, because of some irregularity with the schedule, something to do with the weather or the availability of the restaurant. So the first day we filmed with a director on his first feature, we had to shoot this very complex four-handed scene, with high tension involved. It was very, very impressive the way he started and I have to take my hat off to Jonathan for getting such a tense scene going.

BK I had no idea that was the case. What I see here in front of me on the screen is four people who know each other intimately, know each other's rhythms, can read each other's faces. That's four people who have spent years together, and to think that was the first day. It's amazing.

JT The suntans were very lucky. They became quite intimate in getting those suntans because they had to come to Spain a week earlier to get this deep tan.

On Don's arrival
BK This is great music behind this scene. All I'm doing is walking across an airport lounge, but the audience knows it's like a scud missile going across that lounge. I arrived two weeks after everybody else because of horrible scheduling in America and it was a very anxious time for everybody. If I had been delayed one day more I believe you would have all been in serious trouble, thank God I got away. But also, you know you were talking about them getting to know each other in the sunshine and doing these scenes together, I wasn't there.

JT I think it was very good for the film the way that worked out. Life imitating art.

BK I think you might be right. When I, as the actor playing Don, appear in the film, because of the writing and these four beautiful, flawless performances, all I need to do is get off the plane. I don't need to play nemesis, rage, danger, anger, potential violence – I don't need to play any of this because these chaps have done that for me. All I need to do is get off the plane as Don.

On the vault
BK I think this is one of the greatest impressions of massive wealth I've ever seen on the screen. Massive wealth and guarded wealth.

JT Built in a shed in North London.

BK No, really? I've always thought it was the real thing. That is astonishing.

JT It was raining a lot and we had a lot of difficulty keeping all of that aluminium foil there and stopping the rain from dripping through the roof. Then of course there was somebody behind each of these boxes pushing it out with their hand.

On acting with Ray Winstone
BK This is the first scene that I had with Ray. It was very early on after I arrived and after a couple of rehearsals with Ray, he said to Jonathan and to me that the voice and mannerisms I was using were so accurate they totally reminded him of somebody he knew. He told me who he was, he told me where he lived, he told me what care he drove, he told me who he worked for. He said, "Ben, you are doing this person so accurately." Having huge respect for Ray and his great ear for that particular accent and dialogue, I was just able to relax and accept that this was Don's voice. It was a very generous thing for Ray to do on the first day of shooting.

On Don's character
JT Don's weakness, the only weakness he shows in the piece, is admitting to Gal that he "quite likes" Jackie.

BK Don is a character who openly declares his love twice. He says, "I love you, Gal" and he also says, "I love you, Jackie." It adds a whole dimension to that tortured man.

JT Maybe the only two people he ever really liked, and they didn't want to play with him. They didn't love him, they feared him.

BK He says things that all of us perhaps at one point or another might have thought, but he actually says them. He has no governor, no safety valve on, he's like an animal. When it's time for him to bark he will bark. You and I have both seen this film several times with audiences, and the laughs that this film gets are really quite surprising and gratifying.

JT It's two sort of laughs. There's a tense laugh, a shocked laugh, because a lot of people have told me how frightened they felt throughout the film. It's so close to exploding all the time. Don Logan really could kill him at any moment.

Bits and Pieces

JT It was very good with so many first-time people working on the film. The cameraman, Ivan Bird, this was his first film, it was the designer's first film, and of course it was the first film for the screenwriters and director. It has such a lot of energy and a lack of cynicism about the film that was to be made.

BK I love the way the writers will split a word and put some wonderful expletive in the middle of the word. Fan-dabbydozy-tastic. It's an extraordinary device they use. Each character almost has his own language, his own individual way of expressing his or her own self.

JT Very nice music in this scene by Roque BaƱos, who is a Spanish composer. Music was split into two sections. One part was done by a Spanish composer who had been working with Carlos Saura a lot, and the other part was done by British musicians and had a much more London flavour to it, a flavour of angst and strength against the lyrical side. I think it worked very well.

BK Given the context of my work prior to Sexy Beast I doubt I even crossed Jonathan's mind – maybe I did, I don't know – but I agreed to meet Jonathan after I read it and loved it. Don Logan jumped off the page at me and said "You are next." I met Jonathan, we clicked immediately, and within seconds of meeting we were discussing character, we were discussing Don and the film.

JT In this scene Ben was asked to pee about six times in a row like that. It wasn't that he had incredible bladder power, he had a sort of bulb and a syringe, and there was a lot of discussion about the colour of the pee and how it would react with the film stock. Getting the right colour was quite difficult. There are such silly little points that the prop department have to do on a movie.

Final Thoughts

BK Wonderful. I've seen that film five or six times. I am now beginning to really appreciate it on a purely technical level of composition, focus, choice of music, rhythm. It's really something.

JT It's hard to explain what happens when there is an alchemy on a film. This one was a difficult film for all of us to make, but out of that difficulty this joyous 85 or 90-minute film was given birth to. I am certainly absolutely thrilled with the movie and I hope that everybody who gets to this place in the commentary will have had a great time. We'll leave you with Dean Martin's Sway.

BK Dino. Again, the perfect choice.