New York, I Love You: Shekhar Kapur in the Upper East Side

Shekhar Kapur’s segment of “New York, I Love You” stars Julie Christie and Shia LaBeouf. The film, whose concept was created by Emmanuel Benihby, is being released October 16, 2009 by Vivendi Entertainment.

In one of NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU’s most surreal and haunting tales, a former opera singer (Academy Award winner and four-time nominee Julie Christie, AWAY FROM HER, AFTERGLOW) checks into her favorite Manhattan hotel only to share a glass of champagne with her boyish bellhop (Shia LaBeouf, TRANSFORMERS, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKUL and suddenly, through the veil of a curtained window, events play out that might be real, imaginary or a heartrending tear in the fabric of time.

Shekhar Kapur directed this segment from a script by the late Anthony Minghella, who had intended to direct it but passed away before NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU was completed, and to whom the film is dedicated. Khapur started his career in Bollywood and garnered international acclaim with BANDIT QUEEN in 2004. He went on to direct the Academy Award winning period film ELIZABETH with Cate Blanchett and Joseph Fiennes, followed by THE FOUR
FEATHERS starring Wes Bentley and Kate Hudson and ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE with Blanchett and Clive Owen. As an executive producer, his projects include THE GURU and the Bollywoodthemed Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, BOMBAY DREAMS. Kapur worked in this segment with cinematographer Benoit Debie, who also shot the two Yvan Attal segments.

This segment became one of the most heartfelt and poignant for everyone involved with NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU when Anthony Minghella, who had planned from the earliest stages to direct the segment he wrote, tragically became ill in the midst of the project.

It was Minghella who chose his own replacement director, going in a rather unexpected direction. “He was the one who brought up Shekhar Kapur,” recalls Benbihy. “He told me they had met and had a long conversation about life and death and that they didn’t agree at all on anything – and then Anthony added that he thought that this made him a great candidate because he would take a different approach, yet one he was sure would be very true to Shekhar’s
own vision. Anthony always respected someone who had their own authentic vision, even it if was in conflict with his. And we were lucky that Shekhar was available and said yes.”

Kapur notes: “At first I was hesitant to do this film, as I had just begun a spiritual retreat for 6 months in India. But I pulled myself out; first, because of my friend Anthony Minghella’s illness, and also, because of an interest I have had for a long time in directing short films. Long form films are subject to the discipline of three-act structures, of plot and definitiveness, of beginnings and rounded endings. I do not see life as a beginning or an end but as a series of questions, one leading to another, and each creating a strong yearning for understanding.”

Kapur was faced with a story that flirts with shifting elements of time, memory and imagination. “It’s a story that is abstract, mysterious and also related to death,” notes Benbihy. “The journey of making it was sad in so many ways, but I think Shekhar was able to do something that would have made Anthony very happy and, for all of us, it is a very special part of the film.”

For Kapur, the key was finding his own way into the mystery-laden hotel room created by Minghella. “When I read the script, I asked Anthony, ‘what does it essentially mean?’ I immediately realized the power of that question. For I had to discover the meaning of the film in the making of the film – and then create a film that allowed the audience to search for the meaning of the film in the experience of the film. That’s where the genius of Anthony’s script lay.”

He continues: “Anthony said the film was a love story, and that is was about the idea that we must value life more than we do; we are too careless with it. And when he so tragically died, these statements took on an even greater meaning for me. In order to make this film I imagined Anthony smiling down at me and laughing at my perplexity on how to shoot this film and challenging me to find solutions instinctively. That is how I directed this film. Finally, when I showed the film to Carolyn, Anthony’s wife and long time creative partner, she said ‘Thank you Shekhar, this is a perfect book end to Anthony’s body of work.’ But I hope not. I would hope there are other bits of writing from this genius that left us too early. I hope there are other films to be made.”

The cast was as wrapped up in the poignancy of the screenplay as Kapur. “The actors approached the film with the same reverence as did I,” the director says. “We felt the film was sacred and that we were responsible for keeping its sanctity. While John Hurt and Julie Christie are known to have created winning performances that have made film history, Shia created something that no one had seen before. My first meeting with Shia was a bit startling. He was waiting for something like this to come to him. He knew it would come. When I met him he had already practiced the walk and was already thinking of his accent. I would call this destiny.”


Director of Photography BENOIT DEBIE
Original Music by PAUL CANTELON
Original Song “Un Bouquet Des Violettes”
Performed by HILA PLITMANN