Current Issue #478

All Is Lost: The Cruel Sea

All Is Lost: The Cruel Sea

J.C. Chandor is driving home in New York City while talking on his mobile during the following interview and he winningly begins by explaining just how lucky he is

J.C. Chandor is driving home in New York City while talking on his mobile during the following interview (and yes, that does sound dangerous), and he winningly begins by explaining just how lucky he is: “You know, this [All is Lost] is only my second film as a writer/director [after Margin Call], although I’ve been in the business for 10, 15 years, and it’s been great, an amazing experience.” The GFC-haunted Margin Call and;the open-sea-set All is Lost couldn’t be more different (the former has lots of characters and dialogue, while the latter has one unnamed character and almost no dialogue), so did Chandor set out to make All is Lost deliberately different? “I didn’t set out for it to be like that at the time. I write and direct my own stuff, so when the process starts – you’re just writing. I was working on a bunch of things. This began with the letter that starts the film, and when it came to me I didn’t know what the movie was going to become. I suppose that, in a way, the two films actually share a lot in a weird way, but after the six months that the film came together, I looked back and realised that I’d painted a completely different picture. Although, when I think about it, the structure of the two films is actually similar, as both times you learn about a person through their actions and reactions in a crisis and a limited environment.” Chandor’s star is Robert Redford. His casting is intriguing as Redford’s age (78 this year) gives it an edge that it would have lacked if, ;say, Shia LaBeouf had toplined. “The script was always written to be about an older man, and that’s what made the project interesting. I was looking at actors who could do the physical side of this role, which is very important, but who were also getting to the later chapters of their life. The list gets short pretty quickly. Redford, for me, was a very cool combination of having a very deep history with the audience while also having a certain amount of mystery. A rare combination.” Is this the first movie in which Redford clutches his chest several times as if fearing a stress-induced heart attack? “It is… it’s pretty courageous for a guy like him at this point in his career. I mean, he certainly has nothing left to prove. Or maybe he wants to prove something to himself? It’s a very creatively courageous move. And I was very lucky,” he continues, “as I wrote the letter that opens the film while I was editing Margin Call in September 2010. I went to Sundance in January 2011 with Margin Call to premiere it there, and Redford gave an opening talk at that festival [Sundance is his baby, of course]… I was about 80 percent done with the script then and as he was giving this rousing, funny speech I started thinking about him in the role. A month after that we offered it to him and, amazingly, about a week after that, he accepted it, and less than a year later we were shooting.” Chandor is quick to point out that there is very little FX in the movie: “Some layering and compositing… everything – sort of – done to Redford is real, as really we couldn’t afford anything else. The majority of the film was shot in the ocean off Mexico, and a huge tank facility where they also shot Titanic. Right on the Pacific Ocean… And then we shot in the ocean off Los Angeles and off the Bahamas and in the Caribbean. A real jigsaw, a patchwork of locations.” Chandor is pleased with how the pre-production of his current film, A Most Violent Year, is progressing. “It’s going to be shot here in New York. We’re in the process of locking in our cast now.” Is it true that Jessica Chastain and Javier Bardem will be starring? “Nothing’s confirmed now [or at least when this interview was conducted]. You know, you just have to wait and see how things work out when you make a movie, but it’s a script we all believe in and I have my great team working with me again. So, it should be fine.” All is Lost commences at cinemas everywhere on Thursday, March 6  

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