Interviews with actors or writers or directors or anyone involved in film and TV production are a strange beast. On the one hand they can be quite illuminating in terms of the creative and logistical process of making the entertainment we so enjoy. On the other hand, there is almost always a deep artifice to these interviews. They are usually arranged through publicists, and the only reason they happen is to drum up publicity for whatever property needs to be promoted. There’s also the issue of artistic ego and general politeness and all of it combined means most interviews, while partly illuminating, usually aren’t very honest about the work being discussed.
Sometimes, though, you do get honesty. For example, Rian Johnson, director of Brick and The Brothers Bloom, has appeared several times on the /Filmcast. He’s often on to actually review and discuss new films, and he has little problem being critical. In one episode, while it wasn’t the main topic of discussion, Johnson talked very specifically about why he did not care for the Coens’ Burn After Reading. I happened to agree with him, but I was also pretty surprised about how forthright he was.
Similarly, the /Filmcast has played host to other directors, like Joseph Kahn (director of Torque) and Vincenzo Natali (director of Splice). In both cases, they stayed on to talk, in very great detail, about the making of their films and all the troubles they encountered in the process and with Hollywood in general. The honesty is fascinating all on its own and the information they give is quite enlightening.
In a new in-depth interview with Alex Gansa about his wonderful Showtime series, Homeland, that honesty is equally refreshing. And it’s also not dickish—unlike Shia the Beef claiming way after the fact that he knew Transformers 2 sucked. While Homeland‘s first season was pretty great across the board, it’s not like it was a perfect show. Gansa fully acknowledges this. In one part of the interview he opens up about how they actually sensed problems with one subplot and found a way to make it ultimately pay off anyway:
For example, I would not say that the Aileen/Faisel relationship, as portrayed in script and on camera, was entirely successful. I didn’t really feel that I understood that relationship in a way that I wish we had. However, where it got to with Saul and Aileen in the car on that cross-country interrogation was worth the fact that we didn’t nail the previous relationship as well as we might have.
Again, not only refreshing in openness, but actually enlightening as to how the true creative process works. Unless you’re a truly terrible artist, like Veena Sud, the creator of AMC’s The Killing who apparently actually believes her show is brilliant, chances are you are aware of your creative failings. Hearing about how Gansa and the writers on Homeland managed to take a creative failing and turn it into one of the show’s better moments is amazing, and it’s not something you’d ordinarily get in a publicist-contracted interview.
It’s hard to say exactly what circumstances lead to creatives in Hollywood being honest in interviews, but I love when it happens. Recently I’ve noted that Steven Spielberg’s interviews in support of War Horse have been surprisingly honest and open about his process and his general thoughts about Hollywood and filmmaking than he’s ever been in the past. Maybe his age has contributed to this, or his status in the industry, but either way it’s a trend I love. It would be great to see more talents as honest about their work as Gansa and Spielberg. It would certainly make reading interviews more interesting, don’t you think?