Time Travelers Wife, The: Interview with Director Robert Schwentke

Robert Schwentke is the director of “The Time Traveler's Wife,” starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, which is being released August 14, 2009 by New Line Cinema.

Not Just Science Fiction

Director Robert Schwentke asserts that its title notwithstanding, “The Time Traveler's Wife” is not a science fiction film. “It is an emotional journey about two people in a relationship, and the time travel is the catalyst for things that both strengthen and test their bond. You could argue that time travel is the thing that brought them together, but it ultimately causes all sorts of conflicts. So I saw it as an opportunity to make a great love story, but at the same time we were able to weave some undercurrents into the fabric of that relationship. That feels more truthful to me, especially in a story that starts out with two people who are given the incredible gift of finding the person with whom they belong. It's important that at some point they earn it.”

Schwentke notes that he was also guided by emotion in his approach to the film. “Our storyline is not dictated by a chronological timeline, but by the arc of their relationship.”

Working with Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana

“With Rachel,” Schwentke notes, “there is something intangible that happens; she just glows. She's so lovely; it takes your breath away. There is almost an alchemical reaction between her face and the camera.”

“When I met Eric, I thought he was a great fit for the role of Henry,” Schwentke states. “He is a terrific actor, and he is also a really good man. He's honest and grounded and a great family man, and those are qualities I feel shine through in his performance and lend gravitas and pathos to Henry's plight.”

Because the romance between Clare and Henry does not progress along a linear timeline, Robert Schwentke first engaged McAdams and Bana in a rehearsal period so they could break down the relationship between the characters at each stage. The director says, “Those weeks were spent examining each scene and translating the time travel into specific behaviors and everyday conflicts. So time travel is the crucible, but the emotional truth in the scenes is grounded and relatable. It was also a chance for all of us to become connected before our first day on the set.”

Casting Supporting Roles

“I've been a huge fan of Ron Livingston's for a long time, so I was thrilled to cast him in the role of Gomez,” Schwentke comments. “I wanted someone who had dramatic chops, but at the same time possessed great comedic timing and that is Ron.”

Schwentke offers, “It means that he mostly travels to the formative moments of his life, the most formative, of course, being the death of his mother and meeting Clare in the meadow.”

“It's great when you have an opportunity to direct actors you've always admired,” Schwentke says. “I grew up a cinephile in Germany and I remember seeing Arliss and Stephen in movies and loving their performances and choices. Then one day you get to work with them and that's a wonderful gift.”