If you have Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward to start with, that's an incredible attraction for other actors. Then you also have really good material that's about people's lives. And even though they seem ordinary, they turn out to be rather rich and complex.
It's an incredible ensemble cast that's gathered to do this production. Could you talk a little bit about how everyone came on board.
If you have Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward to start with, that's an incredible attraction for other actors. Then you also have really good material that's very character-driven, that's about people's lives. And even though they seem ordinary, they turn out to be rather rich and complex.
And the screenplay absolutely isolated the moments that make the most of that. It's not hard. In fact, the hard thing is keeping actors away [LAUGHS], because a lot of them were just jumping at the chance. And from my point of view that's fantastic.
A lot of the actors described you as an actor's director. How do you find the richness of each character?
Half a director's job is casting. If you cast the right people, they're going to bring to their parts the essential elements that are needed, and you then don't have to do an awful lot of work after that. The main work you do when you're working with very talented actors is just making sure that everybody stays focused on the end goal of what it's all about and don't go off into tangents or indulgences. That would make the material too spread out and it's all gotta go in one line.
And that becomes my job mostly. And, you know, you do that differently with every person, every person has different needs, to be told things, or not told things sometimes. They just need to know that they've got a good sounding board there, someone that they can trust who will let them really go out and try things but never let them make fools of themselves or let them go off-track.
Why is it important to tell stories like this?
Empire Falls seemingly is about very ordinary people. But there are no ordinary people. Everybody has complex lives and they have emotional upheavals, and things that they would like to change and can't change or, actually sometimes don't want to change.
A story like this, I think nearly everybody will identify with it. They will know these people from their own lives.
And what's powerful about it is how everybody affects everybody else, and you feel that cumulatively throughout the film. There are these repetitions and cycles, like the seasons or the way a river runs, it just carries things on with it, but it's a continuum.
You can see it going through generations, habits, through people, personalities that are passed down. The way people treat one another. And it's those resonances that go through it that make it an absolutely rich story.
You're actually shooting in one of the towns where Richard wrote a great deal of this novel.
We keep coming across people in this town. [LAUGHS] And you go, oh, that's who that must be. It's very real. And very close to the bone.
Is this film speaking to small American cities or maybe small cities everywhere, which are dying out for a myriad of reasons. How does this film address that?
The thing I like about movies is when you get taken into a world that you know nothing about, and you get to experience a way of life that you wouldn't otherwise experience or know anything about. So there's that curiosity as to who these people are, and how and why they behave the way they do.
Do you have a favorite scene from the film?