“I’ve just been at the Sydney Film Festival and came back through London, which is where I live, before I came here,” he said with a smile. “Now I’m drinking this caffeinated soda.”
Despite the changing time zones, Amini was in an exuberant mood, waxing on at length about his affection for novelist Patricia Highsmith and star Viggo Mortensen — and their ability to bring the dark side of human nature to the fore.
“I love the cruelty in her writing,” he told the audience. “Viggo really embraces the ugly side of characters… not a lot of stars do.”
He was a university student when first exposed to Highsmith, who also authored the Tom Ripley novels and “Strangers on a Train.”
Amini, whose writing credits include “Drive,” “Wings of the Dove” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” had wanted to direct “January” for over a decade. The late Anthony Minghella helped him obtain the rights and granted his wish to direct — a “generous” move, given that Amini had never directed.
He praised stars Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac for spending a year helping him hone his script — sometime with dialogue vanishing. “I learned to say as much as possible by saying as little as possible,” he added.
Mortensen also supplied the cachet to get the film financed to the tune of $18 million. “It’s an incredible number for a first film and I came in under budget — partly because I didn’t know how much it was,” Amini added.
Magnolia is releasing “Two Faces of January” in the U.S. on Sept. 26.