MoviesOnline caught up recently with director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) and the cast of Rendition at the Los Angeles Press Conference to promote their new film. Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Igal Naor, Meryl Streep, Peter Sarsgaard and Alan Arkin star in this edgy and thought-provoking thriller about an Egyptian-born chemical engineer, Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), who disappears on a flight from South Africa to Washington.
Witherspoon plays his pregnant American wife, Isabella, who desperately tries to track her husband down enlisting the help of a politically-connected college friend, Alan Smith (Sarsgaard), now an aide to Senator Hawkins (Arkin), while a CIA analyst, Douglas Freeman (Gyllenhaal), at a secret detention facility outside the U.S. is forced to question his assignment as he becomes party to the man’s unorthodox interrogation by his North African torturer, Abasi Fawal (Naor).
Rendition takes a provocative look at the complex political issues surrounding the U.S. government’s policy of extraordinary rendition – abducting foreign nationals deemed a threat to national security for detention and interrogation in secret overseas prisons. The film boldly explores the gray area between left and right and right and wrong and finds no easy answers.
Director Gavin Hood, whose film Tsotsi became the first film from South Africa to win an Academy Award, makes his American motion picture debut directing screenwriter Kelley Sane’s multi-layered story. Here’s what the director and cast had to tell us:
MoviesOnline: Gavin, do you want to start out by saying something?
Gavin Hood: Thank you for being here. And I hope we can answer your questions.
MoviesOnline: This is for Jake and Peter, one of you is a fellow who gives up his career for what’s right and the other fellow decides not to. Did you ever consider playing each other’s parts? Or were you happy with the roles you had?
Peter Sarsgaard: Doesn’t work like that. (Laughs.)
Gavin Hood: I would much rather be the guy who makes the really good choice. I’d hate to be Peter’s character. Peter sucks. (Laughs.)
Peter Sarsgaard: And I was very happy staying close to home, you know.
Gavin Hood: The irony is that most likely in reality we would both make the opposite decisions I think. I would make the bad choice and he would make the right one. I’m just trying to help you along Peter. (Laughs.)
Peter Sarsgaard: I dunno. I don’t have any defense there. I think the decision my character is faced with is as the audience you see all the torture, you see all of that stuff. You are the eye in the sky. I mean, if my character had to do what Jake’s character does and watch the torture and watch her husband being tortured, I don’t know if he’d make the same decision he made. But, that’s the way it is. That’s the tricky part of human nature. They don’t pass out tapes to every American and make us all watch torture before we agree on doing rendition.
Gavin Hood: And also, I don’t think if you were to ask the character whether he does the right or the wrong thing, I don’t think that’s what he’d say. I think he’s pretty practical. It’s between what works and doesn’t work.
Peter Sarsgaard: He’s the senior aide to a Senator. He’s already…I mean, he’s gone pretty damn far. He’s done a lot. He gives her a good card for a guy who can help her and be on your way.
MoviesOnline: I’d like to ask Reese and Jake, why do you think people would want to see a movie about this policy?
Reese Witherspoon: Why wouldn’t they?
MoviesOnline: Why would they?
Gavin Hood: I think your answer was good, why wouldn’t they?
Reese Witherspoon: I think it’s a film that has a lot of different, wonderful elements to it. There is definitely a romance to it. There are thriller aspects. It’s not just a film about a message where you sit there for two hours and, you know, I think it’s a movie that raises a lot of questions and it really makes you think about a lot of the practices that are going on nowadays and whether or not they are legal or ethical or even constitutional.
Jake Gyllenhaal: And who wouldn’t want to see a love scene between Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon? (Laughs.)
MoviesOnline: Was there one?
Jake Gyllenhaal: You didn’t see the movie we made…
MoviesOnline: Gavin, this is your first studio film. Can you talk about the experience after having directed Tsotsi?
Gavin Hood: The upgrade. Windows, version 7.0. No, it’s a fair question, to be honest, when I initially started on this movie I was somewhat intimidated by many of these illustrious actors, but they very quickly put me at ease. I remember the first day with Reese, paparazzi everywhere, down the street.
Reese Witherspoon: I don’t remember any of this by the way.
Gavin Hood: And that’s what’s so amazing, she really doesn’t remember. On the first day we shot you playing soccer with your little son.
Reese Witherspoon: Oh, right, right, right, right. Now, I remember.
Gavin Hood: You really don’t remember, because she really is the pro that goes, ‘Let’s just do the work.’ But I had never been exposed to this level of kind of paparazzi scrutiny and I really found it quite intimidating for a moment. And you don’t remember saying to me, ‘Gavin, let’s just ignore them and do the work.’ You really don’t remember that do you?
Reese Witherspoon: No.
MoviesOnline: What city was it?
Gavin Hood: We were in Pasadena shooting as some journalist pointed out, ‘Well, it’s clearly not Chicago!’ Well that’s true, there is a thing called a budget. So we shot the only scene that was in Chicago in a house that closely resembled a house in Chicago as if that really matters in the context of the themes and ideas of the story. And so, we were in Pasadena, and there were a lot of paparazzi trying to climb over the barricades that our assistant directors had put up. Shooting on long lenses and I thought, ‘My god, what does this mean?’ And Reese literally said to me, ‘Don’t worry about it. Let’s just do the work.’ And as much as it affected her, I found after a couple of days that it no longer affected me either. It was a little baptism by fire and then these guys made me feel very at home. I think the great thing about these actors is they are actors first and foremost and they focus on the work and that’s what we did.
MoviesOnline: It sounds like you didn’t enjoy the paparazzi.
Gavin Hood: No, seriously, I think that I was looking for a film after Tsotsi that I felt would be something good to follow with. And Kelley’s script came across my desk and I started reading and I didn’t know much about rendition frankly and I read ‘Rendition’ on the cover and it could have been Beethoven’s 9th, I dunno. Maybe it’s a rendition of a song? You open the script and I started reading and I just found that I was captivated and I kept turning the pages and I wanted to know what happened next and I thought that he had drawn some incredible, incredible diverse number of characters that were all emotionally rooted and real and when I got to the end of the script I also had a lot of questions.
And I thought, if I have been emotionally engaged and wanted to know what happened next and, in addition, the script has raised questions and I want to talk to somebody about these questions, then maybe an audiences will feel the same way. But of course, when you’ve read a script, there is no one to talk to, so I googled rendition and I found out a lot I didn’t know about. Then we engaged over a period of months in discussions with Kelly and did further research, met with CIA agents, spoke to them, discussed the pros and cons of this current policy. And said, ‘You know what? This is something I feel we should talk about.’ And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it briefly now, I grew up in a country where we didn’t have a constitution. We had detention without trial in the ‘80’s.
I was a young law student there. And we looked at the American Constitution as a document that we felt our country desperately needed and to feel that that great document and The Geneva Conventions which America was largely behind writing after the horrors of the Second World War, to see that these great principles were potentially being chipped away, it was quite a shock. And now that I have American kids, although be it very recently, I feel even more strongly about it, because I believe in the founding principals of this nation and I felt that this film would perhaps in some way contribute to a discussion that I feel is important if we are going to chip away at those principals in anyway.
MoviesOnline: Reese, what was the most challenging scene for you to do?
Reese Witherspoon: Certainly I think the challenge of doing an ensemble piece is that your storyline is so short that every scene you are doing is sort of a pivotal moment in that character’s journey, so everything was sort of heightened and very dramatic. The challenge…I definitely was nervous the day I had to work with Meryl. Uh, yeah. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it. Definitely that ride to work that day was nerve wracking. But, she was wonderful. She’s completely intimidating, completely professional, had a thousand ideas. Don’t you think she had a lot of great ideas?
Gavin Hood: Hmm. She contributed enormously to that scene. In terms of some of the dialogue we used, yeah.
Reese Witherspoon: Yeah, definitely she had a lot of interesting ideas and immediately helped the scene, elevated it, and really, she’s definitely worth every minute of screen time. She definitely makes the film, um, I dunno, what am I trying to say Peter?
Peter Sarsgaard: She makes the film better. (Laughs.)
MoviesOnline: Was she there for every take?
Reese Witherspoon: Yeah, she was. Always in character and you know, also, as soon as you cut, she’s like the nicest, warmest, funniest person – so she was great.
MoviesOnline: Reese, your character really captured the special kind of relationship that exists between two people from completely different cultural, religious backgrounds. Did you talk to anyone about this?
Reese Witherspoon: That’s a good question. I think that is what really drew me to the part. I was excited about imagining a life that is very much like my own. She’s a mother with two children and she’s fallen in love with a Muslim man and married him and as someone who has lived a life without having religious intolerance or racial profiling ever touch her world, suddenly experiencing an extreme of one of those circumstances. I guess all you can do as an actor is imagine it. But I think that was one of the more interesting parts of the character that drew me to the script.
MoviesOnline: Why call it North Africa instead of Egypt? Also, can you talk about the torture scenes and the reality of that?
Gavin Hood: I’m happy to talk about the country question. Kelly’s script originally did set the film in Egypt. And we were going to shoot in Egypt. And then we were not able to go there, because we simply could not get the cast insured to go there. And so, we had to look for somewhere else. But, we found that there was a tremendous amount of fury on the Internet about Egypt and about how dare we make Egypt look bad. And then we went to Morocco, now, let’s clear this up once and for all. We know that rendition and renditions have happened to
Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay and…
Gavin Hood: From Germany, but these others…So there are black sites in a number of countries. Well, we very quickly realized that our crew and cast, many of our cast and many of our crew, come from countries which do not enjoy the kind of liberties and civil liberties that Americans enjoy. And that any country we named would potentially cause some backlash to our cast and crew. So, the use of the word ‘North Africa,’ country again to a smart aleck journalist and you’ll forgive me for being frustrated on that particular point, you say ‘They can’t even define the country.’ Do me a favor, I come from Africa, it’s not a country as the president thinks, it’s a continent and there are many countries in Africa, I’m very aware of that and one of them is not ‘North Africa,’ but in the interests of the safety of our cast and crew, and, by the way, in keeping with the notion that nobody knows where anybody is when they are rendered, we chose to just say ‘North Africa.’ Because Reese has no idea where her husband has gone. He has no idea where he is, which you find from many of the people who have been rendered ‘I think I might have been at Bagran airbase in Afghanistan. I was then flown someone else with a butt up my butt and a nappy on…’
Jake Gyllenhaal: What?
Gavin Hood: Yes, they put a butt plug up these guys.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Wait, are you talking about yourself? I was just confused, I think…
Gavin Hood: The point is, just once and for all, is that people are flown to destinations and they are not sure where they are and the fact that you don’t know where they are, is okay by me. And thank you for asking that question. It’s important that we know we are talking about things that happen to real people and there are greater risks for some of our cast and crew in terms of the realities of the possibilities of detention and torture.
Kelley Sane: And I’m sorry, you were interested in the second part of the question?
MoviesOnline: I was interested in the reality of the torture scene.
Kelley Sane: There is not a lot of official information about torture and the specific acts. But where I found were from people who were tortured or claimed to be tortured. A lot of people who claimed to have been water boarded – and a lot of things. I wanted to make it simple. I didn’t want to make it – I wanted to hit the main ones. Psychological and torture.
MoviesOnline: Jake, how did you go about researching your character who is a conflicted CIA man? Did you get to meet anyone who has done this in the past?
Jake Gyllenhaal: Not in person, no. Over the phone and I never talked to anybody who I don’t think would admit or say they were involved in any sort of extraordinary rendition situation. But, I only talked to CIA officers for fact checking. I think I found that when you talk to someone who has a job like that it’s very technical and the questions you want as an actor are a little bit more emotional, but I think that’s a real key into a character anyway. And so, a lot of it was actually watching movies of people who played CIA agents and officers. And then a couple of movies of a couple of people who have played alcoholics.
MoviesOnline: What movies?
Jake Gyllenhaal: ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,’ which is a merging of the alcoholic and the spy — literally and in the movie. And then also, ‘The Good Shepherd,’ actually. Which I think, just a little shout out to Matt Damon, that’s a pretty incredible performance. More about the less he does, then the more he does and that’s the kind of performance that I look up to. So, I just tried to copy it. (Laughs.)
Peter Sarsgaard: Nice.
MoviesOnline: Igal, can you talk about the moment you figure out the girl in the tape is your daughter?
Igal Naor:: There were two sides to this man. On one side there was a normal family man with needs and pains and the second part was his job which was a dirty job. Not pleasant for him. But he has to do it. And I didn’t see any clash between those two. A normal person who is doing his job and living his life. There is no need to explain anything. I am a family man. Two times in war. I’m not ashamed to say it. It’s very sad, but this is life, this is the truth.
MoviesOnline: Do you think what he finds out will change how he feels about his job at all?
Igal Naor:: No, of course, as a human being what ever happens to you will affect your life and belief. I think he might commit suicide and in another way, as another man, he might leave his job and do something else. And I wouldn’t condemn him for doing what he’s doing. This is human. No man doesn’t think about himself. He believes in what he does. In any nice man, there is percentage of bad and evil and dirty.
MoviesOnline: For Omar and Igal, how hard was it to shoot the torture scenes?
Omar Metwally: Well the first thing I have to say is that I was acting and I would never want to compare what I was doing to what that experience must be. I think there is no way really knowing, so you do as much research and read and talk as much as you can. And then you kind of just have to rely on your imagination and empathy and try to convey, if you can, just one small part of what that horror must be. And I was fortunate enough to have such great actors and a great director to work with. It was definitely a group effort.
Igal Naor:: It was a pleasure to torture him. (Laughs.)
MoviesOnline: With the stories being so separate were there separate units shooting different part of the stories?
Gavin Hood: No, we shot pretty much single camera through the movie. We started in the states and started with Reese and Peter’s story and then we went to Morocco and we shot Jake and Omar. But we were pretty much moving between shooting their story and Zineb and Moa’s story. But, in a way it was like shooting different short films and weaving them together. In a way I think it’s a credit to the actors that they were absolutely immersed in their own stories, so in some ways, some of them have said to me it was a bit of a shock to see all the stories come together. Igal’s sort of – because they were focused as they should be on their story. But, it was great fun to work with these actors who are all very talented in very different ways and then weave the stories together.
And I liked the fact there was a Romeo and Juliet story as a love story about two young people where the world is acting upon them. And then there is the other story, in a way, about these young men and Reese sort of being in between and the world with young people approaching 30 are being forced to make decisions that define who they are. And then another generation of stories, which is Alan Arkin and Meryl Streep, who have decided who they are and are acting out on their already formed beliefs. So, I like the three generations and that’s a credit to Kelley’s writing, because that was there and I felt it would be great to tackle those different stories and weave them together.
Jake Gyllenhaal: And then there is my story about the guy who is approaching 40 who is struggling with all the things a guy who is approaching 40 struggles with. (Laughs.)
MoviesOnline: What about these political films coming out five years after the war began, do you think they will do well or not do well?
Jake Gyllenhaal: I think we’re pretty nearsighted when we think about time. Five years is not that long and most of the movies that are political that we’re talking about have appeared in a time that- – any film from the ’70s or movie about a war was made five or six years after that war either ended or began. I think it takes people, particularly artists, and everyone, journalists, always, if someone said to you, ‘Okay, right now, write it now.’ You need perspective. You need time for opinions to come up or a point of view and I think this is actually very quick. I think that’s always really important because I think we just get very nearsighted.
Gavin Hood: Except for China Syndrome.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Okay. Forget what I said.
Gavin Hood: Can I just add briefly to this question that was also raised about ‘do well’ and ‘not do well.’ First of all, I want to thank our producers, Level One and New Line, for making this film with us. Because the truth is, what does ‘do well’ mean? Are we so cynical that if something doesn’t crack it at the box office, it wasn’t worth making? We have no idea whether this film will ‘do well,’ whatever that means, or not. What matters is that if we’re just going to become a culture that is driven by pure decision on ‘Hey, we feed them this popcorn, will we put more money in our pockets?’ Then we’re a dumbed down society and I would like to see this country revert to the stories of the ’70s where people made films that last. Because you know what? All the President’s Men lasts and the popcorn bubblegum sort of disappears. Whether this film does five cents or $50 million matters to keep my producers in business, but they had the courage to make a film based on the decision that this story needed to be told and I just want to thank them and applaud them for letting us do it.
Jake Gyllenhaal: That’s why Gavin’s doing Wolverine next.
Gavin Hood: And that’s why I love him.
MoviesOnline: How do we get past the Us vs. Them attitude?
Gavin Hood: Those principals should not be abandoned without serious discussion and patriotic Americans should stand up for what America stands for. To be accused of being unpatriotic is just the height of right wing propaganda. I feel that if people are going to strip away anything that this country stands for, we need a serious discussion about it. What was the other question? The Us vs. Them? Look at this table.
There are people at this table from Israel, from Morocco, from Algeria, from France, from the United States, from South Africa. I’ve always believed and I hope it’s at the core of my work that we have far more in common with each other than we don’t, and that is the common, human need as Igal so eloquently expressed it, for family connection, for friends and the only way we can go to war with each other is if we deny that those absolutely universally human needs actually exist in some other group. I think Igal put it better than I can. As long as we see each other as profoundly human, we might be able to get past the Us vs. Them. And that applies to all sides. I would like to make it very clear as Moa pointed out, none of us in any way condone suicide bombing. It seems to me a tremendous manipulation of a young person to push them into such a space.
MoviesOnline: Is this a hopeful film?
Jake Gyllenhaal: Want me to take it?
Gavin Hood: I would love you to take it but I like the question, thank you very much.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Okay, the distinction in this movie I think everybody has talked about. In terms of the choice that he made in the end, I think, to put it frankly, I think that hope is dangerous. And I think that practicality gets things done, which leads you to a good place. The character asks himself the question not if it’s the right thing or the wrong thing but does this work or does it not work? And it’s very simple. I think if he weren’t an analyst, I think the decision would be very different. But it comes to this doesn’t work. This particular situation, it doesn’t work. So it’s nice to think that someone would be able to see through all of those complications and all that ego and make the decision about- – we always say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it but we never say if it’s broken, don’t use it or if it doesn’t work, don’t use it. I think that’s kind of the decision he makes. It was always very important, Gavin and I always talked about it and I think Gavin’s intention was that and they can talk about it, but that this wasn’t a heroic move. This was a very practical move. If there can be more characters who make more practical decisions, I think that’s hopefully the way modern cinema can work.
Gavin Hood: It’s a very interesting response and I think it’s interesting the way Jake phrases it because I absolutely agree with him in terms of where his character is coming from. Jake was very clear that he never wanted a heroic moment where he goes, ‘I am going to do the right thing.’ From my perspective, speaking from where I think that there’s an upwelling in a human being that they’re not even aware of. I believe in some sort of sense of justice that exists within 99.9% of us. Maybe that’s naïve but I do. People actually do have within them a deep sense of what is right and wrong. It gets confused and it gets full of debates and arguments, but what I like about what happens to Jake’s character is he doesn’t really know why he’s doing it but it’s welling up from some place. On the one hand, it’s because it’s not working but if it’s just not working, he doesn’t need to let this guy out and risk his career and walk away from the CIA. I know we debated this a lot. We just, from my perspective, I just wanted that one moment where you feel it’s kind of crept up on him and Jake gave it beautifully at the end. He’s done something and he doesn’t quite realize what he’s done or does he? But he’s done the right thing not because he was being heroic but because it just snuck up on him that this is just not right. It’s not working. It makes me feel like I need to stop it. Am I putting words in your mouth?
Jake Gyllenhaal: I just want to say real quickly that I don’t mean to say- – at the beginning that the reason why I think that hope is a dangerous thing is because I think it takes you out of the present. And I think this character makes a decision very much in the present moment. I think that as a culture, I think that the hope in watching this character, that there can be people who can make these decisions, I think it takes you out of the present of what is actually going on. And I think there is a lot more muck than we think that there is. I think hope is the wrong message right now. I think really working at it is the right message. I don’t know how successfully that was portrayed. I don’t know if we did. That’s an audience’s decision to make that decision but I just wanted to say that.
Gavin Hood: And this is, you can see a process because I think it’s essential that Jake and I absolutely 100% agree with this point, that there’s a danger of being numbed and saying, ‘Okay, well, it’ll all work out fine in the end.’ And indeed there was much debate about whether the character should even arrive at home. As one of the lawyers who represented five, I believe, and he’s sitting at the back there, ‘Hi, Ben,’ he represents five victims of Rendition. So that we just take this from the abstract to the reality, represents five people who have been rendered and who are attempting to obtain compensation from the United States or at least an acknowledgement of what has happened. Some of them have been acknowledged. As you know, Maher Arar in Canada, Khaled El-Masri who was mistaken for Khaled Al-Masri who was a terrorist, is a terrorist and spent, what was it, five months, Ben?
Being tortured and disappeared. This is real, guys. I think that do I have a certain hope? Ben commented that was the ending too hopeful? I think Jake makes the same point. I would like to think that at the ending, the reason that these two characters don’t rush together, and we talked about this, Omar and Reese and I, about what does it mean? These people have an enormous amount of healing to do if they ever can heal. So some people have said, ‘Oh, it’s so crazy, he stands there and she stands there and why don’t they rush together?’ Hold on a minute. If you watch, and it will be on the DVD, the documentary of Khaled El-Masri, go watch it online. He doesn’t know how to move. That’s what struck me and that’s where Omar and I got this moment in the car when he just sits for a moment. So I hope the movie’s on one level hopeful that we will rise to some [best?] We put it out in the world to say, ‘Look at all these different people and look at their common humanity’ and to that extent I believe in humanity. But at the same time, let’s not kid ourselves, as Jake points out, that this isn’t real and that there’s a certain in the moment reality that we need to deal with that isn’t just going to go away tomorrow morning because we made a movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal: And also, I don’t think that the white man is the one who makes the right decision. I think that was- – Gavin from the very beginning, because of where he comes from and because I think modern cinema’s all about that, I think he was very clear that that’s not what he wanted to do. That it’s about humanity. So it was a very difficult line for us to walk in that the ones who think- – I consider all of these people who are involved in this situation are the ones that we, this one person who ends up holding the key that he doesn’t even know he’s holding. It’s like Reese’s character’s desperate for that key. If he could just give it to her, she’d unlock the door. If he gave it to Peter, he could prove- – if he could give it to anybody in this situation, they would know how to do it, but he didn’t. And then he just sort of realizes there is a lock and he has a key in his hand and he does it. But he’s not the guy who makes it happen. I think that’s very important.
Gavin Hood: I agree. Omar, do you have any thoughts on the ending and the issue of hope and the way you or Reese, the way you guys approached the last scene?
Omar Metwally: I really feel like you’ve said it.
Gavin Hood: In other words, thank you for the question because we need hope, but my hope is that we will be pragmatic, the way Jake put it. It’s about saying, ‘We can’t just turn a blind eye to what’s going on and if the rules are going to change, we would like a discussion about how those rules are going to change please.’ If the ticking time bomb argument has a validity, which it does, then tell me how you’re going to legislate for that reality as opposed to saying, ‘Because there’s a remote possibility of a ticking time bomb moment as we see every week on 24…’ If that’s the reality, fine but don’t throw all the rules out. Just tell me. I don’t happen to think that torture is justified under any circumstances but there are those who feel it is.
Fine. If that’s a possibility and that is a valid point of view, tell me how you’re going to manage it legally. Don’t tell me that we’re a third world dictatorship where there are no rules. There are lawyers currently at work saying, ‘Well, if in special circumstances we need torture, then we need to legislate for what that involves.’ How do we register the fact that Jake’s character for example is about to torture someone? Put it in a form. Fax it to a judge. Get a five minute warning if you need to. We do it all the time in other criminal investigations. We apply for warrants overnight. We apply for rights to search a house overnight but we don’t just bash down people’s doors and invade their homes without some form of judicial oversight. Right now the rendition policy has removed judicial oversight. That, for me, is deeply un-American.
Jake Gyllenhaal: What do they say, the elephant and the donkey, right? Then Emily Dickenson says that hope is a thing with feathers. The elephant nor a donkey has feathers.
Gavin Hood: That’s way deep.
MoviesOnline: Why is the issue of the phone call never explained?
Gavin Hood: It is deliberate because the real issue is not whether this man is guilty or innocent. The movie starts out and you feel he’s innocent. Then you feel he’s guilty. Then you feel maybe he’s innocent but there’s the possibility of his guilt. Which means the real question for you to analyze in my mind is whether the process of Extraordinary Rendition is good regardless of guilt or innocence. That’s why it was so important for us to [inaudible???], even a small one, he might possibly be guilty. We based that on things that Ben will tell you about people who have been rendered based on a phone call from phones handed to people who’ve handed to people who’ve handed to people.
So we drew that out of reality which is we’ve got all this sophisticated monitoring equipment tracking one call except you don’t necessarily monitor whose hand it’s in at the time of the call. Because these guys do hand phones off so the ultimate question that you’re left with I hope is let’s assume he’s guilty. Some people were mad at us because one guy was very mad at me in a screening because he was so pleased when the guy was guilty, he wanted the movie to end with him being guilty so that you would have to confront the question of torture even if the guy is guilty. That’s why we left it open. I’m not explaining that really well but the question, it’s easy to discuss it if he’s totally innocent. Well, what if he’s not? Now how do you feel about torture?
MoviesOnline: I wasn’t sure that he wasn’t guilty.
Gavin Hood: Good. I’m delighted. Then you’re left to ask the question: Do I still think the rendition program and the absence of judicial oversight and the act of right of access to a lawyer is a good thing? Is it? We give murderers lawyers. We give potential rapists, we give child abusers lawyers. What’s with this notion the guy who might be a terrorist, that we just suddenly strip everything away and we end up with thousands of people in Guantanamo who we now don’t know what to do with because we’ve stripped them- – it’s just we’re in a judicial mess and we’ve got to sort out that judicial mess. Whatever our point of view about torture is, we can’t become a lawless society.
MoviesOnline: That’s why so many are still there. We don’t know what to do with them.
Gavin Hood: We subverted the rules that have made this society great. We’ve turned due process. We’ve stuck them outside the United States in Guantanamo so we can say, ‘Well, the American laws don’t apply to them.’ Well then what law does? We’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this. We might be losing valuable opportunities to put people on trial who should be on trial in American courts because American court’s saying, ‘I can’t give you evidence because I obtained it under torture.’ This whole thing has created a myriad of problems and if nothing else, it needs to be talked about. I don’t have the answer, but I sure think that we should not pretend that it’s not something worth talking about. I’m glad you noticed that he might not be. Tell your husband he might not be innocent.
MoviesOnline: Reese, you won the Oscar the night Jake was nominated.
Reese Witherspoon: Gavin won too. It was the same year.
MoviesOnline: How much did the Oscar change for you?
Reese Witherspoon: Obviously, it creates opportunities for me to be in different types of films. I think it obviously helped me get this job I think. Yeah, it created- – it provided me the opportunity to work on a lot of different kinds of films.
MoviesOnline: Where do you keep it?
Reese Witherspoon: Oh, in the living room.
MoviesOnline: Can we talk Wolverine for a second?
Gavin Hood: For a brief second but I don’t want to overdo it because it’s not fair on the project that I’m involved with right now.
MoviesOnline: What attracted you to the project?
Gavin Hood: I’ll give you two answers really quickly. One is called a college fund for my twins. That’s what you’re going to say so why don’t we say it? You know, it’s not often that a script like Rendition comes across your desk. We think that scripts are just out there and they’re not. I read 70 scripts- – [Jakes whispers] She just wants to know about Wolverine. I don’t want to tell her about Wolverine. And if you want to know about Wolverine, I’ll tell you why I love Wolverine. I love Wolverine partly because it will pay my [daughters’] college fund. I’m doing it because that’s the cynical answer but the truth is, I didn’t, at first, when Wolverine was offered to me, I went, ‘Well, I’m the wrong guy for this.’
And then I spoke with Hugh Jackman and the truth is that what’s great about the Wolverine character, he’s really a character who suffers from a great deal of existential angst. So you want to know why Gavin Hood is interested as somebody who loves actors and emotions is because looking at it more closely, and I was raised on Greek mythology, not comics- – [Jake whispers] Wait, give me a chance. I don’t know anything about the details of the movie yet but what I do love about the Wolverine character is that there is within that character a great deal of disconnection from who he really is and what it means to be human. So what we’re really getting a chance to do is do opera. We’re taking human emotion and in the way that you would have Zeus throwing thunder bolts, it’s three claws. I happen to be a big fan of the X-men movies because I think those, especially what Bryan Singer did, those are movies about prejudice. They are movies about absence of prejudice and they happen to be done in a very accessible and commercial way. So I think there’s a great deal of themes and ideas to explore in Wolverine beyond just three claws. And I’m not going to say anything more about the movie because we’re here to talk about Rendition.
MoviesOnline: What about doing big special effects?
Gavin Hood: Well, it’s another reason to do it because to work in a visual way, and I happen to- – my first film world was still photography and I love the visuals. Yes, to work at a level of heightened visual effects is going to be an amazing experience, yeah.
MoviesOnline: When will we find out about casting?
Gavin Hood: Honestly, we’re involved in the casting process. We will not know for a good couple of months. We start shooting the film in December, possibly January. We’re very involved in the prep process now and will be casting over the next couple of months. Not this week. Right now I’m still doing Rendition. That’s all I can say.
MoviesOnline: Will it have a PG-13 rating?
Gavin Hood: Yeah.
MoviesOnline: How long will the shoot last?
Gavin Hood: Probably three or four months. Four months, about four months of shooting.
MoviesOnline: Are you shooting on location or in the U.S.?
Gavin Hood: No, it will be in Australia and New Zealand and a lot of it in the Fox Studios in Sydney. That’s as much as I can give you.
Rendition opens in theaters on October 19