HEAT VISION

Josh Trank on Making Peace With Negative 'Capone' Reviews

In part two of a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, the director also reveals how feedback from filmmaker friends, including Rian Johnson, helped shape his movie: "There are areas where you could be weirder."
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
In part two of a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, the director also reveals how feedback from filmmaker friends, including Rian Johnson, helped shape his movie: "There are areas where you could be weirder."

[This story contains spoilers for Capone.]

Since its release May 12, Josh Trank's Capone has generated reactions from one extreme to the other. While some critics praised Trank for delivering a much-needed unconventional biopic, others were turned off by the gory details of Al Capone's last days. Despite the mixed response, Capone was a win for Vertical Entertainment and Redbox Entertainment as the film set 10-day company records with $2.5 million on VOD. The film also ranked No. 1 on iTunes during its first three days of release. While Trank expected a polarized response, he says he's quite pleased with the negative reviews since they were anything but indifferent.

"I'm actually very happy with the outcome. At this moment, it looks like it's split down the middle, and the things that people seem to love about the movie are the same exact things that other people hate about the movie," Trank tells The Hollywood Reporter. "That's perfectly fine because everything in this movie is up front and center for you to see. Nothing is being hidden. It's right there. But I'm glad that what people are reacting to are the most extreme elements of the movie. It's getting a reaction. If you hate this movie, that's perfectly fine because you're reacting to something that's pretty real."

When Trank began to send his Capone script out to actors and department heads, he couldn't help but worry about their reception to it given the extensive media coverage of his Fantastic Four fallout. However, he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction.

"Once I started meeting all the actors for Capone, such as Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon and Kyle MacLachlan, I was nervous just the same way I was nervous before I talked to Tom (Hardy)," Trank explains. "Maybe they would have some sort of apprehension or had read something or looked me up on IMDb and were like, 'Oh God, that movie,' or something. I found that nobody cared because everybody who's been in this industry for at least 10 years or more has had unfortunate projects that they've been involved with. So, there's a kinship that we all have in that sense. It feels like we're part of a little club. We all take our hits, which is why I don't really take my Fantastic Four experience to heart that much anymore."

Like most filmmakers in Hollywood, Trank gathered up his friends in the filmmaking community for a "friends and family" screening since he knew he'd garner honest and forthcoming feedback from the likes of Rian Johnson and Joe Carnahan. Even though the film was already the most offbeat Al Capone biopic ever made, Trank was actually encouraged to get even weirder.

Trank recalls, "Everybody [from Rian Johnson to Joe Carnahan] was like, 'There are areas where you could be weirder. If you've already gone this far to make a movie this weird and this unexpected, own it. Own your shit.' No pun intended."

In part two of THR's wide-ranging conversation with Trank (part one can be found here), he discusses Capone's negative reviews, his concern that prospective actors would judge his Fantastic Four experience when deciding whether to work with him, and the Capone feedback he received from his fellow filmmakers.

Some of Tom's contemporaries insist on negotiating every punch and every fight to ensure they come out ahead and don't look weak, especially in relation to their co-stars. Meanwhile, Tom — who's widely considered to be a top-tier actor right now — had no problem being emasculated as Fonse given the character's frailty and lack of control over his own bodily functions. Do you have any thoughts on this subject as far as the egos of some actors and the lack of ego Tom showed in this regard?

Well, personally, I have never been involved in making a movie where, contractually, the movie star needed time to make sure that per the script and per the production that they would always be protected in the end and portrayed in the most heroic way possible where they overcome every obstacle and are seen as the winner by the finale of the picture. I've never been a part of that myself, but I've definitely heard about that before. I couldn't possibly say any names, but one would only have to do a Google search to figure that out for themselves. Having worked with Tom, I can't imagine myself being able to work an actor who would require those things of themselves because the level of Tom Hardy's talent is so incredible and so inspiring that you would hope that anybody else on that level of talent or near that level talent would also aspire to be as vulnerable, honest and willing to deconstruct their own masculinity onscreen the way that Tom does. Otherwise, I don't really see a point of going to the movies or watching movies. It's really nice to see a good guy win, but at a certain point, especially in the times that we're living in right now, I think it's important to be dealing with dramatic stories that are a little bit more introspective into what we're made of as human beings and what the notion of a hero or an antihero really is. And I try not to think in those terms — hero, antihero or good guy, bad guy. I just want to understand who people are in movies. I want to understand who people are through movies. And it's kind of the best way for us to do that because in real life we can look at real good guys and bad guys. Obviously, it all depends on the context of how they're a good guy or a bad guy because somebody out there could've done the most heroic act ever conceived and then go home and be an abusive horrible person. There's that side of it, right? But with Tom and, for instance, Dane DeHaan, Matt Dillon or Kyle MacLachlan, these are all actors who, without any negotiation, show up to the job and are game for theater that is meant to deconstruct their own elements as people. Again, I can't speak for Tom, but I don't think that there's a real conscious decision that he makes going into something where he's like, "Am I going to be seen like this or am I going to be seen like that?" He’s not thinking about how he's going to be seen. I think he's thinking about, "What does this work require and how can we get to the bottom of it in such a way that we don't leave anything on the table?"

Reviews came out this morning, and while a number of critics find the film to be compelling, there are a number of people who seem to be hung up on the physical symptoms of neurosyphilis that you depicted via Fonse. To me, when a character is dying from such an awful disease, the portrayal shouldn't be sanitized, and I'd actually be more critical if it was. So, where do you weigh on all this?

Before we started interviews this morning, I had a good half-hour to see the first wave of reviews, and I'm actually very happy with the outcome. At this moment, it looks like it's split down the middle, and the things that people seem to love about the movie are the same exact things that other people hate about the movie. That's perfectly fine, because everything in this movie is up front and center for you to see. Nothing is being hidden. It's right there. There are certainly a lot of cinematic devices and ideas that play into the pacing and the reveals of certain characters that are intentionally there to lead you to believe that some things are real and some aren't, which turn out to be kind of different by the end of the movie. But I'm glad that what people are reacting to are the most extreme elements of the movie. It's getting a reaction. If you hate this movie, that's perfectly fine because you're reacting to something that's pretty real. I've dealt with people late in their lives in my own family, who are defecating themselves. It's a real thing. That happens in life. Was I being exploitative about it as far how much poop I dressed onto the bed? Yeah, I went a little overboard, but that's what I wanted to do. It's an impressionistic film, and it's meant to make a statement. How much poop is there is a statement in and of itself. And it is there to either engage somebody in a way that it’s going to make them angry or it's going to make them satisfied or it's going to make them think. It would be one thing if the reviews were sliding toward more of a cult thing, where you've got maybe 30 percent of people like, "Hey, I love this movie," and then everybody else being like, "This is just whatever." But that's not what the reviews seem to be. They're talking about very tangible elements of this film and how they're reacting to it. So, it makes sense for me. I think that it all depends on how we view movies and why we watch them. I put out a tweet this morning, which was a two-part tweet, just saying, "Look, regardless of however these reviews come out, I love this movie and part of the beauty of art is that nobody sees the same thing the same." And specifically, I feel movie-watching is as personal of an experience as movie-making is. So, as one person might feel very strongly that the whole point of movie-watching is to experience an escape from life and to watch something that is ultimately inspiring and leaves you with a completed sense of why we're here, what we should do while we're here and to provide a fully rounded thesis on life itself — I just see it very differently. I don't see movies as that. There are movies like that that I enjoy, but I see movies as a way to engage with the unknown and to explore the more existential questions of our existence, which is why, when we were talking before, I brought up some of my touchstones. The movies that have meant the most to me, such as Barton Fink, which, again, it's not the smartest thing in the world to walk into a studio and say, “Hey, I want to make a movie that is inspired by these 15 movies that didn't really make a lot of money and were released to mixed reviews." It's not the smartest thing to do in the world, but I only live one life. So, I'd rather have made a movie like Capone that deals with these issues in a controversial way for people to maybe discover 10 years from now after nobody is talking about this movie anymore. Pick it up, watch it and be struck by it on some level, and perhaps inspire them to want to pick up a camera and tell stories in their own slightly left-of-field existential way. This is in no way, shape or form to compare myself to anybody like the greats, like the Coen brothers, Stanley Kubrick or something like that; I'm not doing that, so I just want to make that clear. I can see it now, the clickbait quote, coming out of context, being like, "Trank compares himself to …" That's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying that my favorite movies were movies that either were not given their due justice when they were released and never really have to this day, or they're movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was released, made no money, most critics didn't like it and most of the contemporary filmmakers to Stanley Kubrick at that time didn't like it at all either. There are a lot of these movies that come out, have an impact and say something uncomfortable about the world and our ideas of certain people in the world that need some time to resonate. But in this time that we live in where everybody is at home and everybody needs content, this is when people's opinions are going to be the strongest about something — either they hate it or they love it. 

What did you learn about the movie from your friends and family screenings, and what suggestions did you ultimately apply, if any?

Interesting. Nobody's asked me that so far. So, let me think; it's been a while since I've been in postproduction on Capone. And I've shown the movie to many filmmaker friends of mine, such as Rian Johnson. 

Who?

(Laughs.) He's this scrappy young filmmaker, who made a movie called Brick. He's a genius. Yeah, I showed it to Rian Johnson. I showed it to one of my longest, closest friends in the business, BenDavid Grabinski, who, by the way, has one of my favorite debut feature films ever that was supposed to premiere at Tribeca this year and is not because of COVID. But I hope everybody gets to see his movie Happily. So, I showed it to him and many other filmmaker friends such as Joe Carnahan. And then, my own personal family. They had all seen it in various stages, as well as a lot of friends of mine. This goes the same for a lot of friends of mine who I respect in the business, but when we show our work to people, we're specifically showing our work to people who are going to give us a real heavy critical reaction to it and are not going to just be there to tell us what they think we want to hear like, "Oh, it's great." And the thing that I got feedback on every time from everybody I knew was the same thing: "I just still can't believe that this movie exists." All of my filmmaker friends loved the movie for all of its weirdness, for Tom's performance, for the places that it goes and for the things that it does. I haven't gotten any feedback from anybody that has been tepid or lacking enthusiasm. My friend BenDavid has given me very good critical feedback, just editorially on certain things, as well as my friend Joe Begos. It's all been with so much enthusiasm because I think everybody knows what this movie is when they're looking at it. It's a movie starring Tom Hardy as Al Capone with dementia in the last year of his life. That either works or it doesn't at all. Again, like we were discussing per glancing at the first wave of reviews, if it works, it's going to have an effect on the people who watch it in either a negative or positive way. So, for me, the movie works completely. Whether or not it works for everybody else? Again, I'm in no control of that, but it seems to me that what people are talking about in the more negative reviews has to do with the things that they didn' want to see and that they were being forced to see repeatedly in such a way that didn't make them feel like they wanted to know anymore. (Laughs.) And that's OK by me. For instance, I don't know how John Waters' early movies would be received today if he had just been this new filmmaker showing up on the scene with Pink Flamingos. I think most critics and most people in the film journalism community look back very fondly at John Waters and the films that he made. If you just sort of consider the content — not what those movies meant, but the content of those movies — he was putting out some very, very controversial scenes in his films that were meant to shock and provoke people to have a reaction to it. And that is somebody whom I consider a hero. I love John Waters for that reason. I love the content of what he created in his cinema. But I don't think that what exists within Capone is all that shocking when you compare the reality of what it is that's being portrayed. Somebody suffering from neurosyphilis in that kind of state, defecation is the least gross thing that you're going to be exposed to.

Did your filmmaker friends also urge you to not sanitize the film?

Yeah, everybody was like, "There are areas where you could be weirder. If you've already gone this far to make a movie this weird and this unexpected, own it. Own your shit." No pun intended.

Did you cut anything that was rather significant?

No, actually. The only things that were left out of the movie were certain small transitional scenes and things that felt unnecessary. Or just trimming certain scenes down to find the right rhythm of the scene so that the audience is constantly engaged with it. The one thing I always try to avoid is to have scenes where, if anybody has ADD, they kind of space out a little bit. You want them to see all of the really important details of what the scene is really about. So, when I'm editing, I try to clock where the little ADD, space-out moments are. But there's nothing that was edited out of the movie for the sake of sanitizing or easing up on some of the ideas at play.

What was your working relationship with the great Peter Deming like? Was each shot a conversation, or did you mostly have him execute your preexisting shot list, storyboards, etc.?

It was a lifelong dream to work with Peter Deming because he's a name who's appeared in a lot of biographies that I had read of filmmakers that I adored growing up, such as Sam Raimi, David Lynch and Wes Craven. So, I was just such a huge fan of Peter Deming, and I met with him not too long after I had finished my script. We started sending the script out to people, and he was really No. 1 on my list as far as who would be perfect for this, who I felt would understand the tonal balance of the film. He read it, and he loved it. So, we got together and just talked for hours about the movie and other movies in general. He's such a low-key, even-keeled, very funny guy who's got a great sense of humor and this really calm and cool passion for everything that you're planning and thinking about. And he's really selfless. There's no ego. There are many, many big-name cinematographers out there who definitely can be difficult to work with, as I've heard. Oftentimes, a cinematographer comes into a movie and really does architect the visual style of the film, from start to finish. And the thing about Peter that makes his body of work so unique is his collaborations with such a diverse amount of filmmakers, from Lynch, Raimi and Craven to the Hughes brothers. He's a collaborative filmmaker and that's who I look to work with.

So, when I sat down with him, I said, "Look, something that I really want to do on this film with respect to your vision and what you bring to this, I want to make about a 500-page-long storyboard production bible in which I'm going to generate, essentially, a 30-minute long previz based on all of the panels and dozens and dozens of pages of scene diagrams and overhead scene diagrams. Is that something that you'd be comfortable with? What I'm going to be generating here isn't a bible for you to be tied down to as a visualist, but to serve as basically a template for how I see the movie, so that I can communicate the best that I can in a way that we know what movie we’re setting out to make." And Peter was just like, "Dude, by all means, I would love to have something like that. That would be so helpful." So, I ended up spending about four to five months on it before we got to preproduction in Louisiana with my assistant John Ferry, who's credited as our associate producer on the film, and my storyboard artist Troy Morgan, who I worked with on Chronicle as well as Fantastic Four. We created this gigantic 500 page-plus bible of just every single shot in the movie, storyboarded out in detail. Nearly 100 pages of scene diagrams, notes and ideas. I ended up taking all of those panels and creating basically a 30-minute previz out of that. Actually, I think it was a little longer than that. Once we got to preproduction with Peter, I passed along all of these materials right away. He consumed all of them and was like, "Dude, this helps me enormously because now I can see the movie that you see. We can just look for what we're looking for, be organized and also prepared to improvise within these plans." So, that was how we worked on this together, and it was extremely straightforward. I just hope I can work with Peter Deming again and again and again. He was such a blessing in my life — to meet him, to get to know him and work with him. I love Peter.

Despite no conclusive evidence, I read a number of accounts from Ohioans who insist that Capone had ties to their state. Was that the inspiration for Cleveland Tony?

A bit, yeah. I've heard that too. It definitely came from that and the reason being is that Ohio is very much a midpoint between the East Coast and Chicago, as far as the bootlegging world was concerned at the time. A lot of people stopped through there, including Capone. From Cleveland to Kansas City, that whole area is like a midpoint between the two big cities of America.

How difficult was it to clear The Wizard of Oz, one of the most beloved family films of all time, for use in an R-rated Al Capone movie?

How difficult? Much easier than I thought it was. I just know it definitely cost a lot of money. If I wanted to save money for other things, I could've easily used that money for a lot of other things, but it was very important to me that it was The Wizard of Oz for thematic reasons and historical reasons. One of the reasons is that you can see how relatable it is. The fact that people were watching a movie that we all know back then … If you had a home theater back then, it also says how wealthy you were.

It led to my favorite line reading in the movie. It's when Fonse says, "Judy Garland!" in order to correct Matt Dillon's character.

Me too! Me too! I love that. It cracks me up every time. He's so offended. Like how could you not know Judy Garland, the great Judy Garland? Have some respect.

Was it a complicated process to maintain Tom's makeup/prosthetics in the rain scenes?

Not hard at all. It was definitely something to keep an eye on because you don't want to let that run for too long out of the risk that you could ruin the prosthetics. But I'm not an expert. I can't explain it to you in the expert way that perhaps Audrey Doyle, our makeup artist, could; she's worked with Tom since The Dark Knight Rises. But I do know that the compounds in that prosthetic were such that they were water-resistant to a degree. 

Did it take a while to find a comparable mansion in Louisiana that reflects the look of Capone's 1920s-built mansion in Florida?

In order to find the right mansion that matched enough of the aesthetic of his real mansion, as well as allow the sort of scale that I wanted for the look of the movie, it took a bit of time. The backyard in Capone is far bigger than his actual real-life mansion. We had to really, really, really do a lot of location scouting, and we spent quite a few weeks looking at a lot of different houses. You kind of knew it right away; you'd show up and be like, "Yeah, this works." Or, you'd say something like, "Well, maybe we can use the interior of this place, but not the exterior." By the time we found this house, so much of the exterior and the interior suited exactly what we wanted.

You changed the names of certain people in Fonse's life, such as his doctor, played by Kyle MacLachlan. Was this mostly for creative license, or did each person's estate not provide permission?

For creative license. I didn't want to touch this real-life person's legacy in any way where I'd be implying anything that wasn't true. So, in the tradition of creating an impressionistic window into real-life events, there are certain characters, like Doctor Karlock (MacLachlan), who is a composite of a personal doctor, as well as Matt Dillon's character Johnny, who is a composite of many different friends that he had in his life.

It has to be illegal for the Feds to strong-arm a doctor in order to solicit a confession from a patient, right?

Yeah, that definitely never happened as far as I know, but it also felt like fair game. Those were the kind of tactics that G-men would use during that era. So, I feel comfortable enough having it there in the movie — not that it actually happened nor can I say it actually happened. But, at the same time, we don't know it didn't happen.

Every Friday, we release a newsletter that recaps the week and includes a featured scoop and interview. Oddly enough, when we featured Part I of your interview, it just so happened to be coupled with our scoop regarding Boba Fett’s casting on The Mandalorian. I just found the timing to be quite bizarre, especially since Capone was delayed for a while. It seems that your past is still tethered to you in a way.

It's such a small industry, and there's clearly a lot of projects that I was involved in. I almost forgot about them to a degree because that whole part of my life feels like a fever dream. So yeah, I'm excited about it. Like I said, I'm still a fan at the end of the day. Being able to release Capone right now, it's like getting a big weight off my shoulders. Now, I feel like I can just strap back in and go back to enjoying the things that I used to really enjoy before my personal experiences with them made it too close for comfort, I guess. 

Fonse's duet with Louis Armstrong was a nod to your past Louis Armstrong act, right? Were you at all tempted to do your own rendition of "Blueberry Hill” via ADR?

(Laughs.) I can't really do it anymore for some reason. I don't understand the evolution of my voice because when I was 14, I was able to do an extremely spot-on Louis Armstrong impersonation to a scarily accurate degree. And today, I can't. I think it's just from years of smoking. If I try to do it, it really hurts. But yeah, that whole sequence is very much tethered to my teen years doing karaoke with my step-mom, Judy Toll. That was a big part of my life, so I was always looking for a valid personal reason to include a Louis Armstrong reference in something that I was going to write. And it just came out of me organically. So, that scene is very much like the rest of the movie, in that it's both a mixture of real-life biographical situations that were tied to Al Capone's life, as well as my own in this subconscious way. But I was obviously very conscious of not being too obscure about every little detail. Similar to what you mentioned before about Capone being released within the same time period as the industry's big scoop that Boba Fett is joining The Mandalorian, these personal life things just happen to fall into place for me in some weird way. But again, it is also one of those things where I think most people can look around and find all kinds of weird coincidences in relation to their own lives like that.

Did you find a link between Armstrong and Capone during your research?

They knew each other but not in a super chummy way. Al Capone owned many nightclubs, speakeasies and venues that employed musicians, like Louis Armstrong early in his career. What's interesting is that back during the Prohibition days, the speakeasy culture didn't discriminate race. If you walked into a speakeasy in the 1920s during the Prohibition, you would see Black people, white people and Asian people partying, dancing and having fun together. So, there was something very progressive about that time period in a really interesting way. It was pretty cool to put that scene together that takes place in the middle of the movie, because we got to show that. That detail is not emphasized right on the nose, but it's there and it's very much historically accurate.

I've rewatched the film a few times now, and I always get the chills when Fonse hallucinates Al Capone proper in the mirror. If a studio handed you a blank check to make a Capone-in-his-prime movie, would you turn it down?

I don't know. The thought has definitely crossed my mind. It's almost too compelling of a project to deny in your head, just out of some sort of artistic personal guidelines or something like that. I think it might appear that I'm the kind of person where I've got these rigid guidelines for what kind of a story I should and shouldn't do, but it's not really the case. It is definitely a story that clearly intrigues me, and I just like the idea of surprising myself with the kind of stories and projects that I get involved in down the line.

When you and Tom first met, I'm betting that the two of you exchanged war stories. Since Tom has also taken a few licks in this business, did you get the sense that he empathized and understood what you'd been through on Fantastic Four? Most working actors have probably been on sets that have fallen apart to varying degrees.

Yes and no. Similarly, he and I have both had lots of myths tied to our reputation in ways that are pretty exaggerated or one-sided. We both kind of empathize with each other in an unspoken way. We've definitely talked about things and had a laugh about various war stories and things like that, but if there's one thing that I've definitely learned from talking to Tom, it's that you can never assume anything about someone when you meet them based on what you've read about them. You've just got to kind of throw that out of the window. You have to get to know somebody and feel out their personality. For me, it's sort of very similar to talking to a lot of journalists right now over the phone or over Zooms or Skypes. In the past, I haven't gotten to know them, and they haven't gotten to know me. But what we're all discovering now is that we're all pretty friendly people. I think it's when you build up this myth in your head about somebody, I think it's deceiving. But it's also very human at the same time because we live in a culture where we're surrounded by articles and stories constantly in our feed about other people and they all play from some sort of angle of bias or judgment of, "Well, I wouldn't do that," or "That's not how you handle something." But you never really know until you're in that position. Before I stepped into this game in the big studio sense and doing this for a living, I definitely had a lot of my own judgments or biases about different directors or things where I said, "Well, I wouldn't do that." And then, you step into it and you're like, "Oh wow, I had no idea." I can't think of any specific examples off the top of my head, but that's just sort of the reality of it.

I asked Linda Cardellini and Kyle MacLachlan about the Fantastic Four drama, and they were completely unfazed by it. So, I tend to believe that actors know what's what when it comes to studio-director squabbles. Did any of your actors inquire about it before signing on to the movie?

Not remotely. I thought they would, because if I were to take a look at Twitter, I would just assume that everybody thought I was this toxic person. But again, that's sort of the danger of reading too far into— or just looking at Twitter. Searching yourself on Twitter is a real dangerous thing, and I'm trying to do it less and less. It really has a damaging effect on your psyche and your self-confidence. So, once I started meeting all the actors for Capone, such as Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon and Kyle MacLachlan, I was nervous just the same way I was nervous before I talked to Tom. Maybe they would have some sort of apprehension or had read something or looked me up on IMDb and were like, "Oh God, that movie," or something. And like you said, I found that nobody cared because everybody who's been in this industry for at least 10 years or more has had unfortunate projects that they've been involved with. So, there's a kinship that we all have in that sense. We all recognize that in each other, and it's a good feeling. It feels like we're part of a little club. We all take our hits, which is why I don't really take my Fantastic Four experience to heart that much anymore. By comparison, when I consider what a lot of other people have been through, even people I know, it's really not that big of a deal. What made it a big deal was the big deal that the press made out of it at the time, but the actual experience of it was pretty much one year of having a movie that you worked really, really hard on being taken away from you and then turned into something that you didn't want it to turn into. From my experience, that's what it was. But, it's really hard not to look up on Twitter what people think of you or what they're saying about you. I just try to remind myself that a lot of us are on Twitter and if you're going to go on Twitter to say something about somebody else, look your own name up on Twitter. If you don't see anybody saying anything, just imagine that people were saying all kinds of things about you that you disagreed with or that hurt your feelings. We're all human beings and I think, on a human level, it's just important to remember that everybody has their own side of the story. There are clearly some very bad people out there, who we know are guilty of bad things, but that's a different story entirely. But if we're just gossiping about industry things and professional failures, these are issues that have to do with people's ability to earn a living. This is all I have to earn a living. We all struggle in our own ways, so I think it would just be nicer if everybody supported each other a little bit more in our business rather than snarkily taking each other down at any opportunity.

You've been referred to as an "editor-brained director." What does that mean in terms of your approach to shooting this movie? This might sound silly, but would you try to end a take at the same point you'd cut in post?

Oh, that’s interesting. I've always been an editor first. So, when I first started really, really directing short films and short projects, I had this impulse to call cut where I thought the cut would be. And I very, very quickly learned what a stupid mistake that was because you're sitting there actually editing the footage and you realize that part of the editing process is you want to have much more than you think you would ever need. So, the answer is absolutely not. I always let things run very long or as much as I can. While editing features for the first time before I did Chronicle, I ended up discovering something that I think pretty much all editors know. In that you end up finding so many little random happy accidents in your footage and all of your takes. Sometimes, they end up becoming scene favors. Sometimes, you have moments when characters are looking off while the camera is still rolling and maybe listening to a direction and you get this real pensive look on their face because they're in their acting mode, listening and processing what's being given to them from offscreen. So, no, I always let things run and as a director, the only time that I'm thinking about things as an editor is in between takes just to make sure that I know I have enough. But while I'm actually watching the takes, I've got my director hat on.

Was Fonse's lost fortune inside his Lady Atlas statue?

(Laughs.) No, I don't know. I mean, it's a metaphor. It's a metaphor in so many different ways. Lady Atlas, just like the boy, just like the balloon, just like the paintings, just like Tony — all represented a metaphor of fortune that had been lost and fortune that was never his to begin with in a way.

It was a fun theory while it lasted.

Yeah, it was representative of it, but at the same time, I'm always happy to be extremely transparent about all of those kinds of ideas. But there are some little bits and pieces that I like to leave as sort of ambiguous and open to interpretation.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Capone is now available on Digital HD and VOD via Vertical Entertainment.

  • Brian Davids
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