Stone: Interview with director John Curran

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John Curran is the director of "Stone," starring Robert De Niro and Edward Norton. The film, which also stars actress-turned-model Milla Jovovich, was released by Overture Films on October 8.

An intriguing premise


Curran was intrigued by the script’s premise. “The opening scene hooked me,” he says. “It’s a sequence of seemingly benign scenes that are clearly building to something either terrifying or profound. When it came, it was nothing I was prepared for—and that was only page ten. In a larger sense, I was drawn to Jack, a small-town, conservative, religious man on the verge of retirement who begins to question his faith and is soon quietly unraveling. I grew up around men like Jack.” 


Casting Robert De Niro and Edward Norton


“De Niro is a hero of mine,” says Curran. “The desire to work with him was a big part of what brought me to the table. Bob was keen to find an authentic hook to his character—but his process is very intuitive and private. Mostly I got out of the way. I wanted to mold Jack around Bob’s idea of him, not mine.”  


Norton initially had no interest in playing Stone himself, but his longstanding personal and professional relationship with Curran changed his mind. “Edward committed once I was able to articulate the story within the story properly,” says the director. “His resistance forced me to dig deeper into the idea of a Christian parable set in Detroit during the current economic crisis.” 


Norton and Curran had developed a good creative relationship working on The Painted Veil, which Curran directed and Norton starred in and produced. “We’re both pretty frank, but we also remain open to being proven wrong,” says the director. “The benefit the second time around was familiarity. It allowed for a shorthand of communication and process. We agreed early on that Stone Creeson would be unlike any character Edward had played before.”


Shooting in prison


In addition to the obvious advantage of ready-made sets, Curran discovered some unexpected benefits to shooting in the prison. “More than anything, there was an odd palette of color throughout that I could never have conjured from scratch,”’ he says. “The people there were fantastic and extremely helpful. In addition to enduring all the technical and procedural questions we hammered them with, they gave Edward and me access to the prisoners for interviews.”