×

Q&A with Stephen Daldry

A soft touch with 'Loud' moments for director

Stephen Daldry, the only director to earn Oscar nominations for his first three films, recently spoke with Variety’s Christy Grosz about the seven-month shoot of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” the Olympics and zombie-horror pics.

Grosz: Several of the directors we’ve spoken with for this series have said the critical part of the job is thinking up creative solutions on the fly. Do you agree?

Daldry: However well-prepared you are, the preparation is only to give you freedom to have a new idea. I find the hardest thing is creating an atmosphere that is relaxing enough so you can actually have the idea and making sure the crew is able and willing to roll with a new idea as it happens.

CG: When choosing a project, are you drawn to story or character?

SD: The story is the thing that always gets me. It’s not genre, it’s not theme. It’s just whether I connect emotionally to the story. I get drawn to all sorts of things that are widely different, so there seems to be no rules to it.

CG: Was it daunting to figure out how to deal with 9/11?

SD: Everything was thought through, challenged and questioned all the time, what we felt was appropriate and truthful. It was a constant conversation surrounding what we would and would not show regarding 9/11. The great advantage was having (screenwriter) Eric Roth around so that one could keep challenging ourselves. Not just in prep, but during the shoot, it was, “Are we telling the story the right way?” The key element is, how do you (handle) what in the end will be two years of your life engaged in that catastrophe? I certainly was ready in terms of research. What I didn’t know (was) the experience of what this family had endured.

CG: Jonathan Safron Foer’s novel doesn’t have a traditional narrative. What are the challenges of working with source material like that?

SD: There is a clear narrative, in a sense, so the structure was always there. Inevitably the book has many different strands and themes and complexities, (and) you have to make choices anytime you move from one medium to another. Jonathan was such a collaborator and a big partner on this. He consulted all the way through filming and post-production.

CG: How long did it take to shoot the film?

SD: It was long, a seven-month shoot. We did have one three-week break, but otherwise it was continuous from January until July.

CG: Why did it take so long?

SD: The lead actor is limited by child acting laws. It’s a five-day week that’s also limited hours during the day.

CG: It had to be a challenge to find the right child actor.

SD: We were going to hang the whole movie on this kid’s shoulders, so the child had to have extraordinary intelligence and an extraordinary emotional range. I think Thomas came along rather late in the process. Yes, I think we were all feeling the pressure. We were auditioning all over the United States and all over the U.K. Then Scott Rudin remembered seeing Thomas Horn playing “Jeopardy!” Warner Bros. were fantastic partners, and we were all very clear that if we had not found the right child we would not go ahead with the movie. Thomas came through. I think he gives one of the most touching performances by a young actor, ever. He got into very dangerous and challenging emotional territory that’s going to be a huge journey for anybody.

CG: Did you feel pressure to finish in time for awards consideration?

SD: I felt the pressure to finish it this year; I did not feel the pressure to finish it in time for awards. I try not to think about it. In the end, honestly, it’s all luck. Anything can happen or not happen and you can try to plan for it, but it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. I think it would be different if I was producing, but I’m not. You want to make sure you’re happy with something when you look back.

CG: Do you have anything lined up for your next film?

SD: I’m involved in the London Olympics 2012 as an executive producer, and I’ll be worrying about that for the next year. I will see what happens after that.

CG: Is there any particular kind of story or genre that you haven’t directed but would like to?

SD: I’d love to be able to say zombie horror, but actually that would be just for fun. My interests are pretty broad.

More Film

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. “Early this morning, Antonio (Tony) [...]

  • Glass Movie

    'Glass' to Rank in Top 3 MLK Debuts With $48 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is on its way to a solid debut with an estimated $48 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. A sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split,” the Universal superhero thriller should bring in around $41 million from 3,841 domestic locations over the Friday through Sunday period. The estimates are [...]

  • China's 'Three Adventures of Brooke' to

    China's 'Three Adventures of Brooke' to Hit French Theaters (EXCLUSIVE)

    Midnight Blur Films has signed a deal with French distributor Les Acacias to release Chinese arthouse drama “Three Adventures of Brooke” in France this year, the Chinese production company told Variety on Saturday. A release date has yet to be set for the film, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and stars Chinese newcomer Xu Fangyi [...]

  • Noe Debre On His Directorial Debut,

    Top French Screenwriter Noe Debre Makes Directorial Debut, ‘The Seventh Continent’

    This last half-decade, few French screenwriters have run up such an illustrious list of co-write credits as Noé Debré. Thomas Bedigain’s writing partner on Jacques Audiard’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Deephan,” Debra co-penned Bedigain’s own debut, “The Cowboys,” “Racer and the Jailbird,” by Michael Roskam, and “Le Brio,” directed by Yvan Attal. He has now [...]

  • Julien Trauman Talks Survival-Thriller Short ‘At

    Julien Trauman on Survival-Thriller Short ‘At Dawn’

    France’s Julien Trauman has never been afraid to play with genre, and in his latest short, the MyFrenchFilmFestival participant “At Dawn,” he employs aspects of psychological thriller, survival, coming-of-age and fantasy filmmaking. “At Dawn” kicks off the night before when a group of teens, one about to leave town, are imbibing heavily around a beach-side [...]

  • ‘Flowers’ Director Baptiste Petit-Gats Interview

    Baptiste Petit-Gats: ‘Editing Taught Me How to Write for Film’

    France’s Baptiste Petit-Gats is an hyphenate that keeps himself plenty busy editing, photographing, writing and directing. The bulk of his editing gigs up until now have been in documentary film work, evident in the way he shot and edited his own short film, participating in the MyFrenchFilmFestival, “Flowers.” In the film, Petit-Gats tells the heartbreaking [...]

  • Fanny Litard, Jérémy Trouilh on ‘Blue

    France’s Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh Discuss MyFFF Suburban Fable ‘Blue Dog’

    French filmmakers Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh met at university while studying political science before diverging towards separate careers. Trouilh trained in documentary filmmaking; Liatard worked on urban artistic projects in Lebanon and France. They eventually joined back up to film three shorts: “Gagarine,” a Sundance Channel Shorts Competition Jury Prize winner in 2016; “The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content