Interview (2007): Buscemi’s Charged Drama Starring Sienna Miller and Himself

In Steve Buscemi’s “Interview,” a sexually and emotionally charged drama, a journalist (Buscemi) and a beautiful actress (Sienna Miller) go head-to-head about hot-button issues such as media, truth, and celebrity.

“Interview” is the first film to be completed in a project called “Triple Theo,” whose goal is to realize the vision of the acclaimed international filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh’s murder on November 2, 2004 was motivated by political and religious intolerance.

Before his death, Theo van Gogh (who’s the great-grandson of Vincent van Gogh’s brother Theo) decided to remake three of his Dutchlanguage films in English, in a New York City setting. All three films are intense character dramas created in a dynamic, stripped-down style using innovative, low-budget filmmaking techniques with a dedicated crew of collaborators.

Though the movie is basically a two-handler, the two characters are intriguing enough to engage our attention throughout the yarn. Self-destructive journalist Pierre Peders (Buscemi) is no stranger to violence and inhumanity. Having made his name as a war reporter, he has traveled the world seeing some of the most horrifying sights imaginable. As a result, he feels that his current puff-piece assignment, an interview with pop diva, TV and movie star Katya (Miller), is beneath his dignity.

The duo’s first meeting in a restaurant is an instant collision of worlds and cultures, contrasting Pierre’s seemingly serious political focus with Katya’s seemingly superficial world of celebrity. But physical appearances and first impressions prove deceptive and as the interaction gets deeper and deeper, we begin to peel off layers of artifice and deception.

Turning point occurs, when Pierre is slightly injured in a traffic accident inadvertently caused by Katya—she’s the proverbial girl who causes traffic accidents. The couple then goes to Katya’s spacious loft for a long night of talking, drinking, sparring, and coming close to a sort of embattled intimacy.

Each is scarred in his/her own way, aching from deep and hidden pains. But honest revelations give way to punishing deceptions. Their confrontations evolve into a passionate verbal chess game, spiked with wit, intrigue and sexual tension, which is capped with a riveting twist ending.

The best thing to be said about Interview is that despite its small cast, limited settings, confined space, and by necessity verbose scenario, the film is not stagy or theatrical. As director and co-writer, Buscemi brings out the universal elements of Theo Van Gogh’s eternal battle of the sexes yarn, while slightly Americanizing some issues and references to make the debates more relevant to contempo U.S. audiences.

The basic situation of a self-absorbed actress pouring her heart and soul and deep secrets to a journalist who’s initially contemptuous of her, is not very credible. But we are led to believe that late at night, under the influence of liquor and drugs, we all get more sensitive and vulnerable, and more willing to expose ourselves naked to strangers we encounter.

“Interview” benefits from a clever, edgy script, which is all about the power games and manipulation that are integral to the highly visible professions of journalists and actors, and from the strong performances of the two leads. Perfectly cast, as Katya, the beautiful and sexy Sienna Miller is superb, revealing facets of her talent not seen in earlier pictures, such as “Alfie” or “Casanova.” Equally good is Buscemi, playing a tougher, more complex role than the usual.

Background

Van Gogh’s murder impelled his longtime producer Gijs van de Westelaken and his American counterpart Bruce Weiss to approach New York filmmakers. Director and actor Steve Buscemi was the first to commit to the project, recommending his friend and colleague Stanley Tucci, who also signed on, along with director and actor John Turturro. That all three directors are actors is a testament to van Gogh’s ability to create rich characters and vivid dialogue.

In addition to the original “Interview” (2003), the two other van Gogh films selected were: “06” (1994) and “Blind Date” (1996). All three films have a central and universal theme: the battles between men and women.

Theo van Gogh and his longtime crew, led by director of photography Thomas Kist, developed and perfected a fast-paced, forceful method of using three digital cameras running at all takes, with one camera trained on each character in these two-person dramas and one camera capturing middle and master shots. Kist and other key members of van Gogh’s crew worked with Buscemi in the filming of “Interview.”

Credits

Directed by Steve Buscemi
Screenplay: David Schechter and Buscemi, based on Theo van Gogh’s film and
The original script by Theodor Holman
Produced by Bruce Weiss and Gijs van de Westelaken
Executive Producer: Nick Stiliadis
Director of Photography: Thomas Kist
Production designer: Loren Weeks
Editor: Kate Williams
Costume designer: Vicki Farrell