BY A.D. AMOROSI
Duncan Jones is an amiable chap.
When the question and answer session following the Philadelphia theatrical screening for his new
film, Source Code, had a microphone malfunction, the director quickly
went into “town hall” mode and did it without a sound system. When I
interviewed him the next day at the Four Seasons Hotel and told him that I
couldn’t stand Source Code star Jake Gyllenhaal (who was attached to
writer Ben Ripley’s script before Jones got on board) until this very film, the
bearded director smiled and said, “That’s alright. I liked him just fine.”
It is perhaps his genial
steadiness and humor that makes Source Code what it is – a colorfully
future-forward and frenetic Hitchcock-like conceit (with hints of Memento and Groundhog Day) where the mega-watt action and vivid effects never
overwhelm the romantic back story or the comedy of it all. That and the fact that Jones was a philosophy
major in college (“I could’ve reasoned my way through this film,” he laughs), a
director of commercials in Britain (ads for Kodak and French Connection were
his claims to fame) and a hardcore video gamer who makes mention of Grand
Theft Auto as inspirational to the hyperactive heft of Source Code.
Then there’s this. When I tell
Jones that I’ve interviewed his father, David Bowie, on several similar
face-to-face situations, the director laughs and asks “Are we so very alike?”
When I tell Jones that I got his pop angry throughout several questions during
our interviews, he laughs again. “Well, he takes things so much more personally
than I do. Much more to heart.”
With that, Jones wasn’t looking to
repeat the minimalist sparseness that was his self-penned Moon, his airy
2009 Sundance Festival hit that starred Sam Rockwell. For a director so rooted
in retinal-searing science fiction and the tech of it all, Jones digs his
actors and never leaves them in the cold. “I love acting and thrive on that
sense of collaboration,” he says. “I trust my actors.” Jones didn’t want to
repeat himself or take the easy road. Word has it that he turned down the
re-boot of the series of Judge Dredd comix flicks. Besides, he waded through
filming “too many commercials so I could afford to shoot what I wanted to” he
says, regarding what was supposed to be his debut, the Blade Runner-like
Mute, that he’ll take on next.
Jones wanted to do something
ultra-vivid with multiple moving parts like Source Code, something where
he could make grandiose special effects an intimate escapade and toy with up-to-the
minute effects like “virtual stuntman,” that allowed Gyllenhaal’s “Army Capt.
Colter Stevens” to leap from a moving train, roll, then return to a standing
position with the grace of a gazelle. Beyond the technological puzzle that
Jones was happily engulfed in solving throughout Source Code was the
question of how to make the eight minute intervals that “Stevens” had in which
to solve the crime, a different vibe for each of his actors.
“I’m a problem solver,” says
If the problem is how to turn what could’ve been
bland mainstream fare (another smug sci-fi thriller, with Jake G yet) into
something inventive and bold, Jones is the man for the gig.
above: Duncan Jones, with BLURT Contributing Editor Amorosi. Photo by Scott