[Interview] Joe Carnahan On Perspective, Director’s Cuts And Being In The Moment In ‘The Grey’

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Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Open Road and Universal director Joe Carnahan’s (A-Team) The Grey, a thriller that stars Liam Neeson (Unknown, After.Life), Dallas Roberts (Joshua, The Factory), James Badge Dale (The Departed), Dermot Mulroney (Zodiac), Frank Grillo (My Soul to Take, Mother’s Day), Nonso Anozie (RocknRolla), and Joe Anderson.

I recently hopped on the phone with Carnahan to play a bit of catch-up. I really love this film (review here) and jumped at the chance for a little follow-up after to interview with Carnahan and Neeson back in January. And I think I was able to catch some stuff that fell through the cracks that time.

In ‘The Grey,’ Liam Neeson leads an unruly group of oil-rig roughnecks when their plane crashes into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Battling mortal injuries and merciless weather, the survivors have only a few days to escape the icy elements – and a vicious pack of rogue wolves on the hunt – before their time runs out.

Head inside to check it out! I also highly urge you to check this film out on Blu-ray, it looks amazing.

When we talked five months ago, I knew this was a personal movie for you. Now that you’ve been through with it a little longer, has your perspective on it changed at all?

I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters. So it will begin to occupy this very special place, and it does already. It’s interesting the further you get from a movie. What I’m hoping is that in a couple of years when I don’t remember all the problems we had [I'll be able to think about it in a different way]. What’s funny is that I have a place up north, near Sacramento. A house that I go and write at. And I fell asleep up there one afternoon after writing. I woke up and I could hear that Narc was on IFC. I had left the channel on or something. And I sat down and watched and it was like a ghost to me. It was weird, I didn’t remember the minutia and embroidery the way you do in the moment. Ask me this question in five years and you’ll probably have a radically different answer.

But I’m very pleased with the way it came out. I’m very pleased with the way Open Road handled it and I’m very pleased they want to re-release it for the Oscars. All in all, I feel fantastic. We won.

In regard to the content of the film, you said it was about your fear for the world and the perception that the Earth was going to shake humanity off like a bad case of fleas. I’m not sure if those are your exact words but I wanted to talk more about that. I wanted to talk more about that because I think there’s also a lot in there about being in the moment. Would you say that’s true?

I think it’s very much my own dissertation on mortality and faith. The things that confound me and the things that terrify me. And this idea of what it means to be masculine and what it means to be a man and [to have] your fears. To me, things that are very real and very relatable. I was never trying to make this wildly esoteric spiritually pretentious film, I just wanted to lay it out there. The characters have ideas about life and they’re allowed to feel those things. I didn’t want to editorialize and get in the way too much.

I also think you could at the film very much in the sense that those characters are different facets of Ottway’s personality. And they are slowly kind of stripped away. I don’t think the movie is a fatalistic film at all. I think you can always choose to get on your feet and confront those things, no matter how desperate and dire they may appear. So I’m very hopeful.

I also believe in living a good life and being a good person. Be kind more often than not and you’re going to be okay. You know what I mean? I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, but I am a spiritual person. I try to respect people of all faiths, no matter what your belief system may be. What I really hope is that, whatever happens to us in the end – whatever you’ve held in your heart the closest is what’s waiting for you. I think that would be wonderful if that were the way it was.

You shot this film out in the elements, in blizzard conditions sometimes. When I revisited the film I thought that the action as really sound both geographically and editorially. Were there ever moments where you were worried you wouldn’t get everything you needed?

Yeah you go out there with a battle plan or a sense of what you want to do and very quickly nature has another idea. You have to kind of adapt. It could be something as simple as the wind shifting and all of the sudden you have cloud cover blowing in over you. We had to be very agile and in the moment and not get bogged down in an idea. As a strategist, knowing that you’re going to go out and do this, you can’t have this foolish idea that you won’t have to compromise. Compromise is almost built into the thing. We had to have that facility, and if we didn’t we would have been boned from week one, and we didn’t have the financial standing to facilitate that. We had to really be smart and plan and execute accordingly.

Can you talk a little but about what people can expect from the deleted scenes on the Blu-ray?

I think when you see it in the thrust of the film itself you realize why we took the scenes out. I think a lot of it is just more character color and I think there’s only six or seven scenes. You want the fans to be able to experience that. But when you see them there’s some more levity. There’s some more humor in some spots and there’s a much longer campfire scene. I think it’s double the length.

But a film will start to speak to you and whisper to you and tell you what it wants to be. And for me there’s always three radically different films. The one that you right, the one that you shoot, and the one that gets released. And as much as I’d like to luxuriate in a 15 minute campfire scene, when wolves are chasing you there’s not the time.

So you would say that the theatrical cut is your director’s cut?

Oh absolutely. You know I love the stories about all the issues that someone like Ridley Scott had on Blade Runner and how that becomes great film history. And someone being really strident and sticking to their guns. I wish I had that kind of story. But no, the theatrical cut is very much what I wanted the film to be.

Source: Bloody Disgusting