Published on December 22nd, 2014 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Rupert Wyatt – Director of The Gambler
Rupert Wyatt is a familiar name to movie audiences – and Vancouver film industry types – as the director of the 2011 hit, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This holiday season, he’s returned to the director’s chair for a markedly different film, The Gambler, which features an ensemble cast led by Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alvin Ing, and Brie Larson.
In advance of the film’s opening on Christmas Day, Rupert Wyatt spoke to us about his creative approach, his style for working with actors, and his memories of filming in Vancouver.
Could you briefly give us a taste of your creative process and approach for The Gambler?
I always come into things first and foremost, obviously, from the script. In this case a script that was not of my making, but [William] Monahan’s. So when I read it, I saw that the setting being Los Angeles, the city that I live in and love to explore, it gave me the opportunity to give it its own heartbeat – create a character around the city and use my ensemble – my cast of characters as a way into different districts of LA. So there was a lot of work visually done early on – locations that were relevant to the characters and also locations that are perhaps less of the usual palm trees, Rodeo Drive, kind of Hollywood notion and more of the historical aspects of LA and the diverse aspects of LA, culturally, and artistic as well.
Then casting, which is of course so key in getting the right person for the role. It helps so much in the finished, end result. Luckily for me, I got my first choices for every part, really. So I was able to bring an ensemble that worked really well together – that can play off of each other… So it was rehearsing with the cast and finding a way into the story through the characters.
The fundamental difference for me with this film, unlike other films I’ve done, it is awfully character-driven rather than characters serving the plot. So that’s where I started.
As far as working with actors specifically, a lot of directors have their own style in dealing with actors. What’s your style like for helping actors prepare for scenes and their roles?
Well, it’s always an interesting thing to me, in so far as it doesn’t matter how experienced or accomplished an actor is, they’re never going to have an insight into the story as a whole. It’s always the director [that] does. The simple fact is the director has got the entire run of the picture. [The actors] don’t know how you shot the scene that you shot before or the scene that’s going to come after… So it’s really the job of the director to feed that information to the actor… It can come down to really simplistic stuff like pacing and timing and dialogue delivery and it can come down to how heightened you want the reality to be. It’s all of those things, so it’s constant communication with the actors on that level and less about “lift the teacup up a little higher”.
Are there any books that have been influential for you in your creative journey?
There was a great series of books called Screencraft. They explored all different parts of filmmaking from directing to music to production design to costume design and each book was different… A great series, about 10 or 15 years ago when I was in the middle of getting my career of the ground.
Is there any key advice that comes to mind for aspiring directors?
Never give up, I guess… There are many talented people out there that haven’t succeeded and there are many people who have succeeded who aren’t necessarily that talented and I think that comes down to the fact that with our spirit, we can really make a good headway… There’s nothing more tragic than having a dream and not figuring out a way how to execute it. I think if you just stay at the table – you’ll eventually come out a winner.
You directed Rise of the Planet of the Apes in Vancouver. What memories do you have of filming in Vancouver?
Frankly, the thing I remembered the most is how extraordinary the crew was…They were the best crew that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, as a whole. They were an amazing team of people.
What projects do you have coming up after The Gambler?
I’m working on a 10 hour TV series – [Echo Chamber] and I’m going to direct all ten. It’s something I’ve been working on for some years now – building it, which is science fiction that I’ve written with my Escapist writing partner, Daniel Hardy. We’re getting close to having finished all ten hours. We’re writing that for the New Year or the year after.
The Gambler opens in theatres on Christmas Day.