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Self-destructive journalist Pierre Peders (director Steve Buscemi) is no stranger to violence and inhumanity. Having made his name as a war reporter, he has seen some of the most horrifying sights imaginable. So he feels that his current puff-piece assignment, an interview with pop diva, TV and movie star Katya (Sienna Miller) is beneath his dignity. The two meet in a restaurant and, instantly, it's a collision of two worlds—Pierre's serious political focus and Katya's superficial world of celebrity. Their confrontation evolves into a passionate verbal chess game spiked with wit, intrigue and sexual tension, capped with a riveting twist ending.
 

 Interview

In 2003, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh made his excellent film Interview, a searing two-character piece starring brilliantly gifted actors Katja Schuurman and Pierre Bokma. The film deftly exploits the tumultuous relationship of a cynical political journalist and a beautiful B-movie actress over the course of one evening, although a lifetime of pain, insecurity, mistrust and passion flows between them.

It was Theo's wish to remake this film, and two of his others, in the U.S. He especially loved New York and dreamed of someday working there. But in 2004, Theo was tragically murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by a Dutch-born Islamic extremist, allegedly in reaction to the short film he made with Ayaan Hirsi Ali called Submission, which dealt with violence against women in Islamic societies.

Theo had a forceful and sometimes polarizing personality, and was not always tactful or sensitive to those he had a quarrel with. But he also viewed himself as "the village idiot" and couldn't imagine he would pay with his life for his views, offensive as they may have seemed to some.

I didn't know Theo, but I was curious to learn about him and the way he worked as preparation for the American remake of Interview that I was asked to direct by his producing partners.

The idea was to use Theo's cinematographer Thomas Kist, and his Dutch camera crew, and employ the method he devised of shooting—three digital cameras, mostly hand-held, giving priority to the actors needs by allowing long uninterrupted takes without having to hit marks or give off-camera performances.

This also piqued my interest as an actor, and I decided (with my wife's urging) to cast myself as the journalist, and Sienna Miller as the rising tabloid star he mistakenly underestimates.

We rehearsed for two weeks with the help of Doesjka van Hoogdalem, Theo's trusted assistant, and we tailored the story to our needs, changing some of the key details and plot points, but keeping as closely as we could to the spirit and energy of the original.

For the most part, Sienna and I found this way of shooting liberating, closer to the feel of acting in a play. One of Theo's methods that we found a bit daunting was his practice of shooting the close shots first, followed by the medium and wide shots later. In other words, the opposite of how it's usually done here, where the actors are well rehearsed by the time they get to their close-ups. Theo did this to preserve the spontaneity of the performances in tight shots, and it certainly kept us off balance in a good way.

Journalists have asked me if I cast Sienna because of her own tabloid persona. My first and foremost priority was finding the best actress for this very funny, complicated and demanding role. Ironically, it was her behind-the-scenes interview for the film Layer Cake that helped convince me she was perfect for the part of a smart, talented actress determined to challenge herself in her work.

I've also been asked if remaking such a strong film in the shadow of a respected, deceased director was uncomfortable. I can honestly say that although I enjoyed incredible support from my new Dutch friends, I couldn't help but wonder if Theo was somehow looking over my shoulder.

During a break on our second day of shooting, I was thumbing through the New York Post and I came upon Theo's picture, cigarette dangling from his mouth, in an article about Islamic extremism in the Netherlands. Later that night, while driving home with producer Bruce Weiss, I asked him if he had read the article. No sooner had we finished talking about it, I glanced out of my passenger side window and saw resting on the street the one page from the Post with Theo's dour expression looking right at me. The headline read "Scared Speechless." Bizarre. But the headline was wrong, at least when it came to Theo van Gogh. He was definitely not afraid to speak his mind.