×

Q&A: Director R.J. Cutler on Choosing ‘If I Stay’

R.J. Cutler has compiled an impressive resume of documentaries, led by “The War Room”  (1993), “The September Issue” (2009) and “The World According to Dick Cheney” (2013). He landed his first dramatic directing gig two years ago with the MGM-New Line romance “If I Stay,” starring Chloe Moretz as a teen separated from her body and forced to watch the aftermath of the accident that kills her parents. Warner Bros. releases the pic Aug. 22.

Why did you choose this story for your first narrative feature? 

When I read the Gail Forman book, I was moved in a way that I didn’t understand — it is the darkest of fairy tales in losing our parents.

Why did these themes touch you so deeply? 

My father passed away six months ago, so the film was a great gift (to help me deal with that). Before he had his last operation, I asked him if he really wanted to do that at 90, and he said, “But I’m a young 90.”

Michael Lewis for Variety
 

Did being a documentarian help? 

Yes, because I have a very sensitive barometer for truthful behavior. In “The War Room,” there’s a scene where (James) Carville and (George) Stephanopoulous are in the room, and it’s all cleared out on election day, so they’re trying to figure out what to call Clinton — Mr. Governor, Mr. President, Mr. President Elect — and that’s where they begin to recognize what they’ve accomplished.

When did you realize you wanted to make feature films?

I was watching “The September Issue” in the back of a theater in New York, and I thought, “I know I really can do this with actors.”

What lesson did you take away from two decades of filmmaking? 

I agree with what David Mamet said: “Always tell the truth — it’s the easiest to remember.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • 'Bombay Rose,' Venice Premiere, Debuts Trailer

    'Bombay Rose,' Venice Film Festival Premiere, Debuts Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer for animated film “Bombay Rose,” which will have its world premiere opening Venice Critics’ Week on Aug. 28. The film, written and directed by Gitanjali Rao, will also play in the Contemporary World Cinema strand at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 7. “Bombay Rose” is [...]

  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu speaks during a

    Alejandro G. Inarritu on the Need to Preserve Poetry in Cinema

    Alejandro G. Iñárritu is urging the film industry to guard against the influence of television storytelling in cinema, a looming crisis he said could strip film of the beauty and poetry that make it a unique artistic form of expression. Attending the Sarajevo Film Festival to receive the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo award, the Oscar-winning [...]

  • Levan Akin on the Impact of

    Levan Akin on the Impact of ‘And Then We Danced’

    Georgian-Swedish filmmaker Levan Akin is already enjoying success with “And Then We Danced,” his acclaimed social drama about a young dancer struggling with the confines of tradition and forbidden love. The film, which premiered in Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, went on to win three top awards at the Odessa Film Festival, including best film and [...]

  • Brian Oliver'Black Mass' Premiere, Toronto International

    'Rocketman' Producer Developing Comedy 'Inward Bound' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Oliver’s New Republic Pictures, the company that co-financed and produced “Rocketman,” is developing a female ensemble comedy “Inward Bound.” The announcement comes on the heels of Universal’s “Good Boys” becoming the first R-rated comedy to open in first place at the North American box office  in three years, as well as the biggest opening [...]

  • Heroic Losers

    Watch Clip from Ricardo Darin’s Toronto-Bound ‘Heroic Losers’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given access to an exclusive clip and poster from Toronto Special Presentation “La Odisea de los Giles” (“Heroic Losers”) which, starring Ricardo Darín, has just scored in is native Argentina a standout opening weekend of Peso 58.8 million ($1.1 million) and 316,300 admissions for Warner Bros. Pictures. With “Heroic Losers” having released [...]

  • "The Hunt"

    'The Hunt' Director Breaks Silence on Film's Cancellation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Craig Zobel, director of “The Hunt,” hopes that the controversial political thriller will eventually be seen by audiences, and argues that its message has been misrepresented in media reports. Zobel spoke for the first time since Universal canceled the film’s release on Aug. 10, in the wake of a series of mass shootings and amid [...]

  • Mark Damon, CEO & Chairman, Foresight

    Mark Damon's DCR Finance Receives $150 Million for Financing Georgia Films (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mark Damon’s DCR Finance Corp., co-headed with financer Adi Cohen, has received a $150 million investment from Go Media Productions for Georgia projects, Variety has learned exclusively. Damon, whose credits include “2 Guns” and “Lone Survivor,” made the announcement Monday with Cohen. The deal calls for Atlanta-based Go Media Productions to join a private placement as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content