Babel: Inarritu about his Star Brad Pitt

Cannes Film Fest 2006–Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s third feature, following “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams,” receives its world premiere as a competition entry at the 2006 Festival de Cannes.

The film is as close to Esperanto, the acclaimed Mexican director says. At the center of “Babel,” is the subject at the core of 21st century life: Lack of communication.

Budgeted at $25 million, “Babel” was shot in three countries (Mexico, Japan, and Morocco) and in four languages: Those of the countries noted above and English, since the central protagonists are American: A San Diego married couple traveling in Morocco (played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett). Needless to say, the title refers to the biblical notion of people speaking different languages and unable to establish human communication.

Biblical Motif

On a conventional level (and conventions are useful to tell stories) it can be said that “Babel” is about miscommunication. But for me, the story is about how vulnerable and fragile we are as human beings, and when a link is broken, it’s not the link that is rotten but the chain itself.

The Subject

Babel is about people trying to communicate across barriers and borders of language in different positions in Third-World countries. I would not have conceived this personal idea without being a director in exile living five years in L.A. outside my country. How difficult it is to communicate. Ideas and prejudices divide us more than borders.

Language Barriers

The film is not about the obvious definition of language barriers. You don’t have to be lost in the Morocco desert or in the middle of the Shibuya district to feel that you are isolated. The most terrifying loneliness and isolation is the one that we experiment with ourselves, our wives, and our children.

The Script

I started the script with Carlos Cuaron, brother of Alfonso, then invited Guillermo Arriago, who wrote the script for “21 Grams,” to finish the script with me. I traveled to Japan, it was a circus of one year out of the country with my wife and two kids, now 11 and 8. It was a human transformative experience.

Personal Film

Babel, like every film of mine, is a testimony of my point of view of life. Who I am, my weaknesses, and my virtues. I was throwing ideas into the script. I was traveling for one year. This was special to me. “Babel” is dedicated to my two children.

Link with Previous Films

For the third time, I tell a story about parents and children. With “Babel,” I wanted to explore the contradiction between the popular perception that this is such a small world with apparently so many new tools of communication and the equally strong sense that humans still can’t express and communicate with each other at the most fundamental levels.

Film’s Title and Scope

I wanted to try to capture the whole idea of human communicationits ambitions, its beauty, and its problemswith one word. The title was picked after the screenplay was written. I considered so many different titles, but when I thought of the story of genesis, it made so much sense as a metaphor for the film. Each one of us has his own different language, but I believe we all share the same spiritual spine.

Collaborating with Arriaga

The talent of Guillermo Arriaga (who also scripted “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams”) is extraordinary. His writing is profound and powerful. He has been an amazing collaborator, carving out four narratives that unravel in three disparate parts of the world.

The Japanese Story

The Japanese story is kind of silent. The camera is on the deaf mute teenage girl, played by newcomer Rinko Kikuchi. Her father is the unbelievable actor Koji Yokusho.

Origins of the Mexican Story

The story is about a nanny taking care of two American kids (of the couple in Morocco) who has to cross the border. It’s a sad story inspired by a nanny working with me who told me so many sad stories. She is played by Adrina Barraza, who played the mother of Gael Garcia Bernal in “Amores Perros.” Gael plays her nephew in this movie.

Link among the Stories

The three stories are related, but they are physically related only briefly, with just a touch. They take place over two days.

Working with Star Brad Pit

Brad Pitt was a partner of Bard Grey at Plan B before landing the top position at Paramount, replacing longtime exec Sherry Lansing. Brad Pitt and Grey had a very good relationship, but Brad was attached to the film before we signed with Grey and Paramount. The whole experience was difficult and intense. Directing actors in another language is not easy.

For the American couple (Pitt and Cate Blanchett) traveling through Morocco, who are in a sad, intense and personally emotional situation, Brad represented the type of American I needed for the story. However, it is not a n obvious choice and it’s not a characteristic Pitt role that the public is familiar with.

Normally, in my casting choices, I go against what your standard instinct tells you. It’s because I believe art is a transformative experience. I envision Richard (Pitt’s character) as an icon of the all-American male, faced with trouble in a Muslim country today. Brad has not done this type of role before, and I felt it was a challenge and I was excitedand I think he was tooto transform him into a middle-aged man in crisis. Brad had to leave the “Brad Pitt” screen image behind and to become a more fragile man. He did an amazing job, and he gave me everything he had.