The film Ghost In The Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders, is the adaptation “hollywood” film animation cult japanese of the same name. On the occasion of the release of the film, the director was in Paris to speak of this work of adaptation and its desires as a director. You can also find our analysis of the film on the blog Oblikon.net.
What was the most surprising that you’ve asked about Ghost in the Shell ?
I was hoping that you would ask me the question, which is amazing ! Then I return you the question.
Is it that you remember the very first time you have seen the cartoon ? Is that when you got the offer, have you hesitated to make this film in regard to the status of masterpiece of the original work ?
I saw it while I was still in Art School, it was an old VHS dusty because it was a few years after its release. I admit that I was completely amazed, I never knew this existed in the animated films for adults.
Then I met Steven Spielberg, who had the rights to the film. I pitché my concept for the film, and after our interview, he told me that I was the director ideal for this film. From that moment I began to be nervous !
You might summarize what you said to Spielberg ?
I told him that I wanted to be faithful to the Anime, I wanted to be part of the legacy of the work. That’s what they had in mind was not too far away from what I thought of Ghost in the Shell, relative to the spirituality, the philosophy that they had lost and that I wanted to make the film project. It is hard, because we do a big film, and for a big movie, we need a lot of money. And a lot of money involves having ideas, sometimes stupid… And we tried to be smart ! And it is a hard exercise !
What was the most exciting for this challenge ? And the most difficult to accomplish ?
It is a complex film because it’s much more than directing a movie and the actors, because each scene is composed of a multitude of layers, from small ideas, big ideas… And maintain consistency on the film as a whole is a difficult task. You can’t go to a place and say, “great, we’ll turn here !”. You need to build each scene, every car, every gun, every jacket. You have to be very precise in the design and in the concept of the film. Then you need to bring the metaphor, the theme through the image. Unconsciously, many of the ideas for the film are in the imagery, which is purely visual and not only in the dialogue.
Snow white and the Huntsman and Ghost in the Shell are your first two feature films. Were you surprised that we offer you these two important projects, ambitious, large budgets, and with many special effects ?
You know, I’ve made commercials for 15 years before Snow White. It’s not as if Spielberg had me cross at a Starbucks in Hollywood and pats me on the shoulder to tell me “hey, you should do Ghost in the Shell !“. A lot of these things come out of the meeting too ! He really loved the idea of the film, he had seen my work in the video game Halo, we were already in discussions. The first thing that I did for our first meeting has been to prepare a graphic novel of a hundred pages. Inside, several projects, including Ghost in the Shell with the strong ideas of the film that I wanted to present.
Snow white and the Huntsman as well as Ghost in the Shell were they the kinds of movies that you’ve always dreamed of doing ?
In reality, no ! I’ve always wanted to make small films. The first film that I wrote spoke of vagrants living along the railways in america that I’ve sold to Jeremy Thomas, who had also produced High Rise, Sexy Beast. Rather, it is the direction that I thought I’d take. But sometimes, you borrow the path that is created in front of you, you seized the opportunity. I also like to do films for which a universe is built, put the hands in the sludge, to create an immersive experience. I came across this kind of movie by default ! But because I proposed too.
Is it that you remember the moment you have understood, realized, that to make movies this would become your life, your job ?
I did St. Martin’s School of Art in London, and I’ve never studied cinema, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was in fact in the United States when I met the director Tony Kaye’s American History X. It’s a crazy, but very creative ! I worked as a small hand with him on a film shoot, and I sometimes stupidly launched a “oh, Tony, you should move the camera there“. He looked me in the mode “ok…“. We have developed a strange relationship work, and after that, he told me that I should become a director. This is the real beginning of my journey into the world of the film.
What movies have fed your desire to become a stage director after the one you’ve suggested ?
I grew up watching movies very varied : Elephant David Lynch film with Nick Roux, a lot of Kubrick. I am very attracted by the visual movies. I can not name a film in particular, there are so many who have influenced me. This is the beauty of the art of cinema, you don’t stop to find stuff, the library is so rich. Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano, I admire them for a long time, I have grown up watching their films. It is extraordinary to be able to shot with him.
Ghost in the Shell is very ambitious and requires the involvement of many aspects of film. How do you as a filmmaker to be sure that this is indeed the film itself ?
I work with some for a long time. My director of photography, Jess Hall, Saint Martin’s School of Art with me. It has been 20 years that I’ve been working with my editor. I also recently met with Jan Roelfs, my chief decorator on commercials. It is a big movie, yes, but what is strange is that we spend a lot of time around the kitchen table to work. We were in an old paint factory, a not really glamorous. Half of the people working on the film are not even in the credits because mainly for rotoscoping (editor’s note : a technical film which is to identify frame by frame the contours of a figure filmed in the actual shooting to transcribe the form and actions in an animated film).
Finally, it is not so different from an independent film. I think that it is especially important to create a creative team around you. To facilitate the dialogue by going to the essentials, trusting. A good friend to me, a supervisor of special effects in French that I have worked with for many years, has very well described the role of the director. You want a huge sphere in your hand, but you see only the face that is in front of you. Then you need people all around the sphere to help you to wear it and see further than the limits of the face which it contemplates.
Snow white and the Huntsman and Ghost in the Shell are two films order. How do you adapt you ? Make them more personal ?
I think the personal vision is in all aspects of the film. You take decisions very instinctive, you don’t write “here is my vision for the film !“. For Ghost in the Shell, I really wanted it to be authentic, real. Then we built 90% of the special effects using animatronics, models, miniatures, skeletons… For the opening sequence, we designed the entirety of the robotic skeleton that we really did come out of a white liquid. I felt involved in the movie because I have not been blinded by the special effects. They are more additional than just special effects. The characters are stronger because they live in a real world.
Should we see a symbol in the white liquid present in Snow White and the Huntsman and Ghost in the Shell ? And in the place of the woman ?
This is for sure, I love to really drown my characters in a white liquid ! I am very proud that Ghost in the Shell is a film driven by a very masculine but in which the main character is a strong and intelligent woman ! I think that Scarlett delivers a great performance. The advantage of a woman in the title role is that one has to time the action, the violence but also the empathy and the effect is stronger than if it were a man. So yes, I am definitely attracted to the heroines strong and drown the characters !
Of all the themes present in Ghost in the Shell, what is the most personal and that touches you the most ?
I am really very interested in the way in the landscape, the world around us has made us human. In the future, we have the opportunity to make us evolve ! The technology is evolving without effective constraint, regulation, or limit, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence. I was chatting with someone of autonomous vehicles, these cars are all lead only. Imagine if the software of the car decided to sacrifice his own driver in a crash to save another car with five people inside. Or an accident with an older person and a younger one, the youngest, would survive. Then I would also imagine that if you’re in a Porsche against an old Beetle Volkswagen, you’ll survive because you’re richer.
There are definitely a lot of hope and excitement in these technologies of the future. But there is also the need to be attentive. Steven Hawking said it well himself, explaining that artificial intelligence is probably the most extraordinary discovery of the Man but also his last success…
What is the stage the most intelligent of the film according to you ?
I literally finished the film last Friday, so I haven’t yet been congratulated on my “intelligence” ! But I think the smart thing that I did for Ghost in the Shell has been to surround myself with smart people who have helped me to complete this complex film.
It’s a very personal film, what do you think leave it as a trace ?
You know, this is not a normal film, not made with Hollywood people. But it’s still a hollywood movie, the money comes from Hollywood. Thank You Hollywood. We have made a personal film. When I think of the many movies I’ll see at the cinema and for which I still remember as a little pop-corn on the pants, I hope that, with Ghost in the Shell, an emotion will remain.
Why Scarlett Johansson was she, according to you, the perfect incarnation of Major ?
I think Scarlett is the embodiment of the movement, Cyber Punk, especially because of the movies she has done, and representative of a generation. Lost in translation, Her, Lucy, Under the Skin, are the many references typical. I think she is also an actress very successful in the action, but it is also very strong in emotion. For Ghost in the Shell, it was very limited in movements, cannot use his or her tics as the other actors. Biting into an apple, smoke, hold a cane, Scarlett could not do anything. everything had to come from within, and I think that it is something that is very difficult to get out for an actor. She manages to show a lot of things without actually play with her own body.
Juliette Binoche has said she first refused to play in the film. You came back three times to convince her. Why you keep so much of it ?
Yes, she has much declined. But I finally had it and I think that is all that matters ! Once you have someone in mind, and that you want for the character, it is very difficult to drop. I knew what I had to do to get it. It has brought a lot to the film, a character that was not originally planned. It was written for a man, but I felt it was more important than the birth of the scientific level of Staff should be a mother figure. There is always a list of actors to “caster” but I really wanted to work a lot with someone that I admire very much, and Juliet is unique. She has not done too much this kind of science fiction movie, it is for this reason that I drove away relentlessly !
The dog – this famous basset that generates theories crazy on the internet – is also present in your film. Is this a nod to the original artwork or was there a deeper meaning ?
You know, the film director Mamoru Oshii has this dog ! We wanted to during the filming in Hong Kong but he had no passport. It would have been cool to have the real dog of Oshii in the film. But the bureaucracy is interposed. To answer your questions, the fans of Ghost in the Shell, and, in particular, of Innocence will be clearly a reference. It is also present in the holograms on the roofs of the city.
A long time ago, the daily Liberation asked the same very simple question to many filmmakers around the world : “Why shoot you ?”
I am a plumber very zero ! For me, the beauty of film is that it combines both of my passions. As a director, I work with musicians, sculptors, actors, poets. I think I was scared of having to choose a form of artistic expression. So I selected the one that brings the entire ! I’m very lucky, I travel around the world, working with talented people. I went over glaciers, in the sewers, myself had a little tour in helicopter. It’s an incredible chance !
The collaboration is what I love. It is nicknamed “the Circus”, we are living with just a suitcase, it moves from project to project. My first assistant director had finally had a home to him that at 41 years old since it was traveling. It is a life journey but a life great.
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