Forty Shades of Blue is made of:
• Other movies I’ve seen.
• A barbecue by a swamp I went to with my family when I was a
• A painting the set dresser found at an Estate Sale.
• A fight I got into with one of the actors just before “action.”
• The face of a man I saw at a bar when I was scouting locations.
• The night I saw Rip Torn introduce Coming Apart at
the Cinema Village in New York.
• The hours I spent as a kid driving around Memphis with my father
in his 1971 Cadillac convertible.
• The time I started crying watching François Truffaut’s
The Soft Skin alone in a movie theater.
• The video of Green Day’s “The Time of Your Life”
that made me decide to hire the guy who shot it as my cinematographer.
• The blind date I went on to see Satyajit Ray’s Charulata
(which I later loosely re-made as Forty Shades of Blue).
• The conversation I had with Dina Korzun, the lead actress in
the movie, about how much we both love Isabelle Huppert.
• A dress the costume designer borrowed from Diane von Furstenberg’s
• The Ken Loach retrospective I saw at Lincoln Center that taught
me that you can still achieve realism, maybe even more so, without having
to shoot a movie hand held.
• Another retrospective I saw at Lincoln Center of all the films
of Maurice Pialat.
• An afternoon I spent in Mississippi with the legendary Memphis
music producer, Jim Dickinson, watching him teach Rip how to play the
• The screaming match I got into with some of my financiers about
how many close-ups I was, or was not, going to shoot.
• The week I spent in Bristol, England, with the film’s
composer, Dickon Hinchliffe.
• The tulip magnolia blossoms that happened to be in bloom in
front of the house we were shooting in.
• A lost trove of soul classics written and produced by Bert
• The willingness of his family to let us use them in the movie.
• A still I have on my wall of Brigitte Bardot in Contempt.
Another one of Monica Vitti.
• The many nights I spent as a teenager at George’s, the
gay disco in Memphis.
• The years I spent in psychoanalysis.
• The ruthless and accurate advice my co-writer and I got at
the Sundance Writer’s Lab from Stewart Stern, the screenwriter
of Rebel Without a Cause.
• The day I spent with actor Darren Burrows at the house he lives
in with his wife and four sons on an avocado farm outside of L.A.
• The books of Patricia Highsmith that taught me that all storytelling
is about creating mystery, even when you are making a love story.
• The time I heard Johnny Cash sing “Forty Shades of Green”
on the car radio.
• The fear that I might never make another film.
• The sound of trains in Memphis, which you can’t ever
stop from blaring right in the middle of a take.
• Every movie ever shot by Raoul Coutard.
• A woman I once met that I wasn’t nice to.