Dialogue: Tony Gilroy

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Tony Gilroy spent years working as one of Hollywood's leading screenwriters, most notably adapting the "Bourne Identity" series of pictures, before venturing behind the camera on "Michael Clayton." Now that "Clayton" is drawing acclaim throughout the world, it seems as if it must have been an easy film to get financed. But, as Gilroy told The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Gallowayon the eve of "Clayton's" Dubai screening, it nearly didn't get made at all.

THR: It took you six years to get this picturegreenlighted. Why?
Gilroy: It would have been a lot easier to get a different kind of film off the ground. It would have been easier to raise four times the money and do an action picture, because I had written a bunch of them and that was my current brand. Studios like first-time directors on action pictures because they become collaborations, in a way, between the production people and the second-unit and the director. There were some other offers that came along the way, but none of them interested me that much.

THR: Weren't there other screenplays that you wrote yourself and also wanted to direct?
Gilroy: There was another project, "Wild Kingdom," about the paparazzi, but that didn't come together, ultimately because of me: I wasn't committed in the insane way that you have to be committed to push something all the way through.

THR: And you werethat committed with "Clayton"?
Gilroy: Yes. I never gave up.

THR: Why?
Gilroy: It was a simple enough (project) that I knew I wouldn't just be hanging on and getting through it. I have masteryin my other job as a writer; there is nothing that really cares me -- I can do everything. I knew I wasn't going to be able to replicate that as a director, but I wanted to have some aspect of being able to swing every day. This was simple enough and the material was rich enough that I could do that. I didn't want to make a first film that was just a starting point.

THR: What was the process you followed to get it going?
Gilroy: It took the first couple of years to write and hang in there. Then I tried the movie star route -- I knew if I could get a movie star to do it for nothing it would get made; but you waste an incredible amount of  time waiting for people to pass. You are begging them to pass quickly! We were dangled by a number of people.

THR: Including George Clooney?
Gilroy: I couldn't even get George to read it at the beginning, and when he did he very mercifully passed quickly -- he was the only one who did! Then I tried to get the budget down. It had always sat around $20 million, but we tried to make it for $10 million and still couldn't get it made. I went on a private equity tour and met a whole bunch of (financiers) over the years. I just finally couldn't do it.

THR: Sowhat changed?
Gilroy: At one point I was working with Steven Soderbergh and I gave it to him and said, "I am begging you to get me a meeting." He was the prime mover. And I started hounding George for a meeting, calling everybody I knew who knew him. Then finally I got the meeting. That was in February 2005. I flew to Los Angeles and went to his house on a Sunday morning in a massive rainstorm and had this huge meeting. It was like a 9-, 11-hour meeting. And at some point in the conversation, we started talking about casting; we started talking collaboratively about making the movie.

THR: And then you knew he was in?
Gilroy: Sometimes you know something really fundamental is happening. But I had to sit behind 'Good Night, and Good Luck' and 'The Good German.' I had to wait about six months.

THR: When you got to shoot the film at long last, how did it go?
Gilroy: We were extremely well prepared. I had plenty of time to prepare -- to make sure of all my hires, check out locations, get my
crew.

THR: Nothing went wrong?
Gilroy: Nothing could go wrong. We didn't have any margin of error.
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