“Here there are no easy answers…” - hmv.com talks to Eye In The Sky director Gavin Hood
When you think of a war movie, you probably imagine an enormous, sprawling epic like Apocalypse, Now or Platoon, but Eye In The Sky, which hits DVD shelves on Monday (August 15th) is something quite, quite different.
Gavin Hood directs Helen Mirren, the late Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul and Barkhad Abdi in the movie, which is a suffocating, tense and powerful drama.
The film follows Mirren’s Colonel Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, who sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone. This being modern warfare, it’s an international situation and one with no easy answers.
As the movie comes to DVD we spoke to Hood about making the film and what it’s like to shoot when none of your stars can be there at the same time…
How did you get involved in the movie?
“I was between films and reading a lot of scripts and this one came across my desk. I had no expectations about it and usually after 10 pages you can tell if you connect with something or not and this gripped me. I’d get a few pages in and I’d think ‘Okay I know what I’d do right now’, then I’d read a few more and change my mind and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I got to the end of the script and really wanted to talk to someone about it, but I had no one to talk to!”
What was it that grabbed you about the script?
“I thought if the script has had this effect on me then imagine what audiences would think, it’s a film that could really engage them, make them think and really want to talk to someone at the end. I really liked the film’s presentation, so many films are ‘Good person takes on bad person and takes revenge’, really dumbed down, but here there are no easy answers as well as a really entertaining movie.”
Did you do any of your research after reading?
“The writer (Guy Hibbert) had done a huge amount of research for it, but I wanted to do my own legwork so I dived into the internet and found out as much as I could. I wanted to have a vision of what I could do with it, I met as many people as I could, intelligence officers, drone pilots, human rights activists, everybody that I could really.”
Did you make many changes when you got the job?
“My biggest concern was that it could end up being a film about people in a room looking at TV screens and would be too static. It needed pace and drive. The other big change was taking Helen’s character, which had been originally written for a man, and making it a female character.”
Why did you decide to make that change? And how did you sell it to Guy?
“I said to Guy one day ‘Guy, these arguments are so interesting, they need to be made by men and women, at the moment it feels a bit like a boy’s own movie, let’s make her a woman’. At this stage I’d met women who did that job so I knew it was perfectly realistic. I wanted men and women to feel equally engaged by the film.”
Was Helen Mirren always first choice for the role?
“There was a list, there always is for movies, but Helen was the first person we went to and she said yes. We knew there was a limited number of actors who could take the role, especially for a film like this, which doesn’t easily fit into any genre.”
How did you find shooting? Was it a hectic process?
“We didn’t have the financial resources to have Helen, Aaron, Alan and the others there at the same time. We had to shoot all Helen’s stuff within a week and she was up first, it was testament to her that all she was looking at was a blank screen with a red cross of where to look. It was just me and her in a room, nothing else had been done. So she filmed all her scenes and did a remarkable job with them, then Aaron Paul arrived and we did their scenes, again, nothing on their screens, then we went again with Alan Rickman. It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle, putting all these little bits together.”
You shot it all in South Africa, was that always the plan?
“We shot it all in South Africa. If we’d had a bigger budget we’d have gone to all the places we show in the film, we’d have gone to London and to Kenya, but decided to stay put. Everything was in this one set in a warehouse, even the house where Helen’s character wakes up, that’s a set. It was a very efficient plan. I’ve been in the game long enough now to know how to make movies to a budget.”
How does making a movie like this compare to making Wolverine or Ender’s Game, which were your previous two films...
“On those movies you’re working for a studio on a franchise. Wolverine was my first big film and I was used to running my own show, so I think I went in quite naively about how it would run. I like it when financiers buy into your vision and that’s what happened with Eye In The Sky, everyone was making this film because they loved the subject matter, that’s very different to working on a huge movie with a lot more voices, this was really going back to my roots.”
How was getting it all together in the edit? It sounds like a lot of sewing together afterwards...
“It was a huge and complex beast to edit, especially as no one was there with each other. My editor Megan Gill, who’s been with me since my first film Tsotsi, did an incredible job making it all work. I will admit that shooting separately meant I was always worried we wouldn’t have everything we needed, but we had great actors and they gave me so much to work with. So many different reactions to place in every moment.”
Finally, what are you up to now?
“I’m back where I was before this movie. Working on a number of projects, six or seven in active development, hopefully I’ll get one away in the next month or two.”