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No, said George (Clooney) I wonít be able to do it but you should get Clive (Owen) Ė thatís how the casting went on Duplicity, as writer/director Tony Gilroy explains in this Q & A.

How did you come to write and direct Duplicity?
Someone introduced me to Steven Soderbergh and Steven knew I did all these espionage movies, so when we met and he said I want to do an espionage movie, a love story. I said, ĎIím really kind of burned out on the whole espionage. The only thing thatís cool thatís happening is that all the people that I know that are in that world are all doing private and corporate.í He liked that idea and that was the very beginning of it.

I didnít write Duplicity to direct it. It went through a lot of different people and sat there for a little while. As I finished Michael Clayton, it was sitting there very cold and I was very happy that no-one was taking a look at it and it was lying in a shadow place. I was very happy to not say anything about it and hope that it was still going be there for me to go into the pantry and grab it to direct.

Did you always have Clive Owen and Julia Roberts in mind?
No. In the very beginning this was built for George Clooney. George actually introduced me to Clive. He said, ĎI know you want me to do this but Iím not going to do it. Iíve got to do some other things but you should get Clive.í He introduced me to him at a party. I said, ĎAre you passing on this movie?í He said, ĎJust go talk to him.í Thereís a very short list of guys who could play this part. This part is very difficult to play.

Clive had been in Bourne [The Bourne Identity scripted by Gilroy] but Iíd never met him. Iím a huge fan of his but I never knew he was so funny, loose, comfortable, goofy. Itís like Ďwow why hasnít anybody put that on film?í It was so perfect for the part. He read it and he became my partner and then we went to Julia first.

While we were waiting to hear back from her, she became pregnant so she was out. Clive and I went around trying to find other ways to put it together, but we couldnít. We could never find an economic, studio-acceptable formula that would work for everybody. Finally we gave up. He was going to go off and do another movie and all of a sudden, the phone rings and Julia came back to us and said ĎOK Iím ready now. I lost the weight, I want to come back and go to work.í

Michael Clayton triumphed at the Oscars and then subsequently on DVD. Did you forsee that? And how do you think Duplicity will fare on DVD?
We were pretty surprised with Michael Clayton. We came out of the Venice Film Festival and we were like whatís going to happen? We opened and everything that happened afterwards was pretty cool, a surprising ride and it was a lot of fun. If youíd asked me before what was going to happen, I would have never been able to predict it.

How well do I think Duplicity will do? I donít know the answer to that. These kind of movies are hard to make. Is there an audience for this movie? Weíll find out. There used to be a lot of movies like this, a lot of bigger smarter movies. Is that gone? I hope not.

The ending of the film is a big talking point. Are there any alternative endings lined up for the DVD?
No. The ending was the big issue in the final cut conversations I had prior to making the film. But what we are doing for the DVD is putting all the scenes chronologically. Take Clive and Juliaís scenes and put them in a row and you can follow them that way.

Is this something of a departure for you in that there is romance at the heart of the film?

Nobody dies in Duplicity. No guns, no bombs. Itís a love movie so itís a different kind of movie. Itís a hard tone to capture but it was always designed to make smart candy, really smart, slick.

Do you think it will surprise people expecting Bourne 4?
The first couple of screenings that we had over the summer, where you just bring in some friends to find out whatís working and whatís not, I had a couple of people come out and go, Ďwow this took me half an hour to figure out. You were trying to be fun, right?í Itís a love story, itís supposed to be fun, and itís not supposed to be anything like any of those other movies.

Duplicity adopts a humorous tone towards money at a time when weíre in an economic crisis and Wall Street scandals are prevalent. Is this good timing for the film?

Itís very hard to time movies. All the Iraq movies - there must have been a certain point where people were like ĎOh My God, what are we doing? Are we driving off a cliff?í A lot of it has to do with luck. If Michael Clayton had come out this year, that would have been really bad. Iím really happy that Clayton existed in a pre-Obama America because of the politics of it, and the anger in it, and a lot of stuff thatís underneath there subliminally has hopefully been dissipated.

Maybe we might luck out and this will be the right idea for right now, but itís really hard to design. Movies take so long to make and so much luck goes into the moment.

Both Duplicity and Michael Clayton depict corporate intrigue. What draws you to that subject?
I think itís a coincidence that those two pictures fall together like this. Iím not sure I really want to get back in elevators again anytime soon! The cinematographer and I went location scouting for both films and we spent so much time in elevators. Maybe next film we wonít go in elevators. Nonetheless I like what people do and Iím always intrigued with what people do. Corporate life does provide a public and private arena for conflict. Thereís such a tension between whatís private and whatís public in corporate life and thereís rituals to it. Itís good dramatic fodder and a lot of people havenít paid attention to it in a long time in a way that really made sense. It looks really good anamorphic. I could stay home in New York too!

How did you become involved with writing the film version of State of Play?
Before Michael Clayton was released and after it was filmed, Iíd actually had a car accident and broke my hip, and I couldnít go anywhere. They called me and said do you want to work on State of Play and I told them about my hip. So Kevin Macdonald [the director] came to New York and came to my house every day so I was actually able to do it at the house. We worked really hard for eight weeks, it was very intense, and we were under a lot of pressure. Youíve got to really deliver, no messing around.

How did you research Duplicity?
This is actually a very easy film to research because a lot of people that I knew as sources from other movies were all going private. Of all the spies I knew, and all the people that were in the intelligence community, almost every single one of them had gone private over that period of time. Weíd done Proof of Life and got involved in the whole kidnapping and ransom business, control risk, Kroll and all these companies. Itís a huge business worth billions and billions of dollars so it was very easy to research. Thereís nothing in the movie that isnít true. There isnít anything in there that hasnít happened in some variation.

Did Duplicity turn out exactly how you had envisioned it when you wrote the script?
Itís a big mistake to try and say I have the script and the movie has to be that way. Thatís a buzzkill and anti-creative. I wouldnít want it to look exactly like it does in the script. You want it to change, you want it to become alive, you want it to grow as you go. The tone for this is tricky and I didnít realise just how difficult that would be.

How hard has it been to switch from writing to directing?
Even the first scripts I ever wrote, I wrote them as directors. I made them as a real movie to me in my head. Bad screenwriting is someone just typing stuff but if youíre writing well, youíre making a movie and it reads like a movie. Itís frustrating when someone comes in and messes it up or takes it someplace that you just go, ĎOh My God, thatís just a terrible, terrible choiceĒ. Thatís very frustrating.
The more experience you get, you write less and less and after you direct, you write less, less dialogue, let the camera do more.

Published July 30, 2009

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Tony Gilroy


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