Sunday, August 28, 2005

An Interview with Writer/Director Andrew Niccol

This interview was conducted on or around August 28th, 2005 via telephone to promote Andrew Niccol's film movie Lord of War. There actually aren't a lot of questions about Lord of War itself in the interview, because he did a Q+A after the screening of the film, and answered the majority of the movie-specific questions during the Q+A. For whatever reason, I don't have a transcript of the Q+A, so all that remains is a short interview about more general topics. This interview was originally posted on the message boards, but I'm reposting it here for the sake of preservation.

Andrew Niccol: Hi.
Tyler Foster: Thanks for doing this interview.
Andrew Niccol: No problem.
Tyler Foster: I notice that as a writer, you seem to like to take an idea you can expand to all corners of the world you set the movie in. Is there something about that that you enjoy studying and its effects on all sorts of people?
Andrew Niccol: Well, I guess it's a style I have that...I don't consciously think about it like that.
Tyler Foster: Then, how do you approach writing a script? How do you take --
Andrew Niccol: It's a very haphazard process, I'm afraid. [chuckles] You'd be frightened. 'Cause it' know, I'm interested in a lot of areas and I just sort of start collecting...reference on it, and then either a story will occur to me from that, or it won't, and...or a character will emerge from that, or it won't, and if it does, I'll write a script, I say, it's rather chaotic process to getting there.
Tyler Foster: Celebrity seems to be at least somewhat interesting to you. What is you find most interesting or most disturbing about celebrity?
Andrew Niccol: Ah, well, just when you know more about Paris Hilton's life than you do about your own uncle. There's something wrong there.
Tyler Foster: [laughs] Someone pointed out to me that The Truman Show is almost the opposite of S1m0ne. What do you think of that evaluation?
Andrew Niccol: Yeah, I never thought about it at the time, but I think it's true, that S1m0ne is The Truman Show inside out. You know, you have one real person in a fake world and a fake person in a real world.
Tyler Foster: Do you find it more or less interesting to direct your own films as opposed to seeing how others interpret them, such as Spielberg's take on The Terminal or Peter Weir's take on The Truman Show?
Andrew Niccol: Well, they're sort of different cases, I always write to direct. In the case of Terminal, though, I felt I'd explored that theme before. I felt I was kind of going over old ground in a way, 'cause I had another another prisoner in paradise, and I wanted -- you know, I was happy that someone else wanted to take it and see what they would do with it. And in the case of The Truman Show, it was the mistake of writing my most expensive script first. Nobody gives you $80 million dollars for your first movie.
Tyler Foster: I heard you shot footage for The Truman Show with Gary Oldman. Does that footage still exist somewhere?
Andrew Niccol: Somewhere. Yeah, but it was more of an exercise in some ways, because ultimately, when you have Jim Carrey and you have Peter Weir and it's your first attempt at a feature, it's unlikely to happen.
Tyler Foster: What's your next feature film about?
Andrew Niccol: I don't know yet. I'm working on a couple things, but it's been a challenge to get it off the ground.
Tyler Foster: I heard you had done a sci-fi script that you were letting someone else direct, involving water?
Andrew Niccol: Oh, no, that -- you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet. That's actually, a friend of mine, Shekhar Kapur, mentioned it. He wanted me to write this film for him, and I think he said it at Cannes or somewhere, and it ended up on the internet. It sort of mushrooms from there.
Tyler Foster: Are there are any TV shows or movies that interest you right now?
Andrew Niccol: Yeah, well, I think I'm sort of more drawn to, I guess, non-fiction than fiction, becuase the world is sort of entertaining enough, or absurd enough on its own without having to fictionalize it.
Tyler Foster: Lastly, do you think there's an idea you'd like to write about in a script but you think there's too much information to cover?
Andrew Niccol: Too much what to cover?
Tyler Foster: Information.
Andrew Niccol: No, I don't think of it like that, it's just more just looking at the human condition, but more...I guess I'm looking at the inhuman condition, and what we're doing to each other with technology, and just the way the world's going, and I'm more interested in stories in that area.
Tyler Foster: Alright, well, thank you very much and have a nice flight back to wherever you're headed.
Andrew Niccol: San Fransisco, actually.