by director Brad Anderson
I like to genre hop. I've never wanted to be pinned down as a filmmaker who specializes in (fill in blank). The eclectic stories, the different genres I've found myself drawn to, have changed project to project, year to year. I started my career with off-beat RomComs (Next Stop Wonderland, Happy Accidents) and have since veered into paranoid thrillers (The Machinist, The Call), horror (Session 9), suspense (Transsiberian) and even period romance (Stonehearst Asylum).
And now, Beirut. I like to think that every time I start a film it's like embarking on an expedition to some new, exotic land—one fraught with excitement, danger and, of course, wonder. The more unfamiliar the land, the more I feel the need to explore it and discover what's new and surprising about it....
Until I read Tony Gilroy's script for Beirut I'd never really considered doing a political themed film. But it was clear to me this wasn't just your run-of-the-mill political thriller. Nor was it your straightforward hostage drama. It was something different, fresh. It was moody and textured. It refused to be pinned down. And I found the world of 1980s Beirut deeply seductive, mostly because it was new to me.
One film immediately came to mind, one of my favorites: The Year of Living Dangerously by Peter Weir. I still remember seeing this film for the first time, being drawn under its spell. It's about a foreign correspondent having a torrid affair during the political turmoil of 1960s Indonesia. What stuck with me even more than the story was the sensual, exotic, often menacing world that Peter Weir so brilliantly created. You could feel the tropical heat, the smell of smoke and gunpowder in the air, the amber light flickering through the palms. It was exotic, visually stunning. And emotionally wrenching.
I saw in Beirut a chance to create something similar: the sensation of what it would have been like to be in that beautiful but broken city in the midst of its civil war. I love this "world building" aspect of what I do, being able to immerse myself in a place, or a time period—or even a state of mind!—that I might not be entirely familiar with. And then exploring it, taking it apart, dissecting the details, finding the essence of it, and then bringing that world to the screen, so an audience can be transported there as well.