RED LIGHTS Interview Rodrigo Cortes and Cillian Murphy

RED LIGHTS Interview Rodrigo Cortes and Cillian Murphy
Updated: 07-05-2012

Be sure and check out our review of RED LIGHTS here, and please beware the interview... Spoilers abound




QUESTION:  Can we start with your beliefs? Do you believe?


RODRIGO: No. I’m not interested in believing. I’m interested in understanding, which doesn’t mean I don’t accept things I don’t know how to explain. If you ask me if I believe in supernatural things I will say, “No.” Everything has to be inside the nature of margins. But if we consider paranormal as a group phenomena in search of an explanation, there are things cannot be explained yet, and radio frequency will be paranormal centuries ago. So I accept there are things that we cannot explain yet. But I’m not interested to believe in them.  But I try to understand it.


QUESTION: And you, Cillian?


CILLIAN: Yeah. I tend to be the same as Rodrigo, in that, I am naturally skeptical and rational about things. But I am curious and open to things, and what was fascinating about this script and about this character and researching and playing it was the need that people have to believe. How people would set aside logic and reason. Logic and reason are rational. But they needed to believe, because maybe they had lost somebody and that is fascinating. And how that can be manipulated. I found that all very interesting.


QUESTION: Did also feel the need to debunk? Your character is so obsessed with the idea of saying that there’s got to be a logical explanation. If you understood the need to believe, then do you also understand the need to disprove?


CILLIAN: I guess so. It’s a very interesting battle, particularly in America. I read a lot of James Randi and I have seen his talks. Rodrigo and myself talked a lot about it but what I liked about the movie from the beginning was that Rodrigo gave equal credence to both camps. So, it wasn’t about pointing fingers or ridiculing either side. I think in that TV debate in the movie, which I love, neither camp is given greater or lesser credence. They’re both treated with respect, which I admired in the writing.


QUESTION: If you’re in fire, you prepare as an actor by going through the motions of being a fireman. How do you prepare to be a psychic?


CILLIAN: Yeah. Um… hanging out with firemen. (Laughter). No. I read a lot, and I actually went to Vegas to see more of the showbiz aspect of it. Because I think that the DeNiro character is an amalgam of the David Copperfield/Chris Angel thing and those preacher type guys who claim to heal and cure and the psychic. So he’s kind of an amalgam of that. I also hung out with a magician in Spain. But because the character goes on such a journey – in the beginning, he’s so firmly in the skeptic camp. For me, the most important thing was to make the character believable and honest that you go on that journey with. But the reading was fascinating.


QUESTION: In dealing with this kind of subject matter, did you encounter anything unusual on the set? Because usually people that do horror movies they have stories.


RODRIGO: Yeah. I wish we had invented a couple of things for these interviews. (Laughter) But no. Unfortunately, nothing strange happened. I didn’t investigate. But I did do my research for a year and a half and never saw anything really strange. But something very funny that I found out while researching both sides (the skeptics and the believers) is that at the end of the day, both of them, no matter what they claim to believe, only confirmed the things in the previous theories. They rejected everything or reconfirmed their positions, which means that most people want to believe in only what’s convenient to believe.


QUESTION: What do you hope the audience takes away from seeing RED LIGHTS?


RODRIGO: I couldn’t help them. I would just screen it. If the others need help from you, then you didn’t succeed in what you are trying to do. I would never give them written notes, or try to interpret it for them. So, not everything is explained in the film, which is something we really wanted to get. The movie should continue after it ends, so that when you rewind it, you find out there certain things you don’t know very well and how exactly it happened. This was something we were looking forward to doing.


QUESTION: When DeNiro comes out of the plane in the first scene, and he takes off his sunglasses, did you want the audience to think about him having sight?


RODRIGO: I wanted them to find it strange. Not very logical. I’ve heard a couple of people saying that is an integral shot, because a blind guy would never take off his glasses. And they are right. A blind guy would never do that.


QUESTION: I ask this question and don’t to imply that you didn’t anything other than terrific job. But the casting of Sigourney Weaver as a real life “ghostbuster” (Laughter), is that a hump you have to get people to stop thinking about the comedic version of the film.


RODRIGO: Yeah. You can tell that. But that was not the reason why I wanted her. And that’s funny, because that is the only character I ever wrote for someone. It simply happened. It’s actually pretty risky, because it doesn’t guarantee a “yes”, but it guarantees a serious problem if she says, “no”. Thank God, she said, “Yes.” I wanted a very strong woman that you feel this warm side underneath this hard tough layer, with something broken inside her. For some reason, when I though of someone with this intelligence with in a way a sexy nature I thought of her. I don’t know why. But that is the reason. I never thought of GHOSTBUSTERS. Not consciously.


QUESTION: This is for Cillian. The roles you play tend to have a question mark around them. And in this movie, Sigourney Weaver’s character asks why is your character is “with me”. What attracts to these more darker, mysterious characters, like you play in this, RED EYE and IN TIME.


CILLIAN: Well, I hope I’ve done a lot of varying roles over the years. My constant is not to repeat or to always challenge. I’m just attracted to good stories. To good filmmakers. And this was a gift of a role. There is ambiguity about the character throughout the movie. That’s his function. But also you go on this amazing journey from the time we meet him in the beginning to the time we see him at the end of the movie. To be able to play that arc well, the audience has got to go with him on this journey, and that always intrigues me. I never see any correlation or connection between the characters that I played in the past. You just got to embody them as purely and honestly as you can.


QUESTION: When you were a child and something struck you to be an actor, I’m sure you watched a lot of RAGING BULL or THE GODFATHER. What was it like meeting DeNiro and acting with him in real conflict?


CILLIAN: It was phenomenal. I think for any actor of my generation – as you say, we grew up watching his movies – they’re seminal moments in my life, watching those films that you mentioned. So, to actually be in a room, working with him and Sigourney both – they’re both legends… I think they are aware of that legacy that they have and the effect they must have on the actors of my generation. But they were just extraordinarily warm, lovely and friendly. I have often said that the first scene that we shot with me and DeNiro was that scene where I come to visit him with the salt and everything, and I have no dialogue. So, it was just a pure “let’s watch this master” create the scene with Rodrigo, and for me, was amazing. I just had to look intimidated, so there no acting required for that (Laughter). Very simple. But you do pinch yourself. It’s very hard to avoid resulting to cliché when talking about people like DeNiro and Sigourney Weaver, because they are legends, and their filmography speaks for itself.


QUESTION: Rodrigo, can you talk about working with DeNiro? Was it like “do I direct him, or do I let him do what he wants”?


RODRIGO: I don’t know. It’s easy to work with him, because he’s better than others. I’ve stories of him being hard to work with. But there’s many different circumstances regarding the way people do certain things. From the very first moment I had with him I Italy, which is such a perfect place, and in 40 minutes we knew we were going to work together. He’s just an actor. Yes, he’s a living legend. But you cannot think of that. It’s not the most intelligent thing to do when you’re directing someone. So, you have to forget about that and focus on the moments that you have in front of you. So, if you think there’s something to improve or there’s something to explore, you simply tell him, and he simply does it. He’s an amazing actor who is so warm and friendly with everybody.


QUESTION: In the UK historically, phenomenon dealing with ghosts and psychics and that type of thing are more accepted there. So does that affect your viewpoint on the subject? Because here in the US, you couldn’t talk about a haunted mansion, but over there you can.


CILLIAN: I don’t know if I agree with you on that. I think myself and Rodrigo talked about this. We’re too cynical in Europe, and I think this whole televangelist thing that exists over here does not in Europe. It’s a billion dollar industry over here, and they’re really isn’t an equivalent. Now maybe if you’re referring to we’re more open to stories, I don’t really know. I would suggest that it really couldn’t work in Europe. This sort of film had to be set in America.


QUESTION: But there is a mythology about the little people, or the banshee. There are characters that kids in Ireland grow up believing in.


CILLIAN: Uh. Not in my generation. (Laughter) That maybe an image you guys have of Ireland and Europe. It’s not really the case. There is obviously mythology and a great history there. But the character that DeNiro plays, there’s equivalent versions of him in the States. But there really isn’t at home. The guy there at the moment is Derren Brown, but his whole thing is about exposing, or showing the truth behind these guys and how these tricks happen. So yeah, I would suggest it would only work in America.


RODRIGO: And the movie is not about fantasy, creatures or whatever. It’s about memory sensory perception in a scientific way, which is something we really wanted to implement. However, everything was physical, touchable and believable. He’s very much about beliefs and scientific background. In a way, has a lot to do with magic. What I wanted to explore was the mechanisms of perception of the human brain.  Because he basically lies and that’s what magicians play with and that’s what you as a filmmaker play with, in a way you want the audience to look at your right hand while you steal a couple of wallets with your left hand.


QUESTION: Rodrigo, your last film was such a stylistic experiment with one guy in a box for 90 minutes. Did you learn anything from that you were able to apply to a more traditional movie?


RODRIGO: Well, you learn a lot from everything. BURIED was not my first film. I did another one before and it was out of the box. So… (Laughter)… you can do one in the box and another outside the box. At the end of the day, everything is about just telling stories. There’s no big difference. Hopefully, if BURIED works, it’s because I never treated it as an experimental film, or something restrictive and confined. I never thought of limitations. I always felt I was doing INDIANA JONES in a box or NORTH BY NORTHWEST in a box. So, I just focused on the story and the tools I needed in order to make it work. At the end of the day, you have story, characters, great actors and tools to make it work. You have a camera. I never found any real difference. I don’t feel this film is redundant.


QUESTION: You guys kick this word believe all through the movie and believe has the word “lie” in the middle of it. (Laughter) So, you can get someone to believe in something, but that doesn’t make it true or false. Did that ever come up?


RODRIGO: Not that part. But believing is not the same as understanding. Believing is believing, which is totally acceptable and which you have to totally respect. But believing is to totally accept something you don’t know about. So, it can always be a lie or a truth or whatever. Again, that is something I totally respect. But I was never interested in believing, because it’s not a way I can understand my work. It’s interesting, because it’s convenient sometimes. But that doesn’t help me understand what I have around.


QUESTION: But you left a huge question mark in the end.


RODRIGO: Yeah, that’s an old theme. I would be stupid if I just accepted things I could not understand. I’m not especially intelligent.


QUESTION: But there has to be some message. There’s no story without a message, and I still didn’t why you wanted to make this movie.


RODRIGO: Well, in way it’s a story of acceptance. So certain things happen. And it’s so hard for one’s self to accept who you are in a way. You have to be brave to look at yourself and decide. But paranormal is just a medium. It’s not that I wanted a giant message. Everybody has to perceive the one that you feel you got it, then that is the right one. Even when people tell me certain theories of the film, I find them interesting. Because if I want them to have one single idea, I would have put it in the film. I wanted to be ambivalent many times, because I don’t believe in closing things. Movies are not only about closing answers. They are also about questions. So if you find a big question mark, it’s because I put it there.

QUESTION: I heard you guys filmed several different endings. I’m wondering how did you decide on this one and how did you know the whole time that Cillian’s character would reveal himself at the end, and did you ever play around with him revealing himself earlier to Sigourney Weaver’s character?


RODRIGO: That would not happen because I wrote it. So, I was pre-aware of that.


QUESTION:  But was that always your intention, or did you ever question doing it differently.


RODRIGO: Well, you question certain things. But then you find this is logical for a reason. I never wanted this to be final twist film. Because when you have a giant final twist – in these films, they usually just work with the twist, and they don’t work with anything else – and to me it was very important just the film itself. In the end, more than a final twist, it was this thing about self-acceptance or a discovery that needed to be made this way. But I never intended this to be a big giant surprise that you would rewind everything. We found it logical and that is the way we did it.


QUESTION: The question mark for me is that he had super powers and eh was trying to find someone else that did. So, why did he not reveal any indication that he had psychic powers?


RODRIGO: I would have problems if I revealed it at the very beginning. Much of the story would lose its power. To me it was important that everyone started to doubt themselves. In the first part of the film, everybody learned that this form of paranormal activity could not exist, because they always had an explanation. You have Dr. Matheson there, like your Mother, who is going to give you answers to any questions you may have. But then she disappears, and then you become an orphan, and you become an orphan too. And from that moment on, you start to doubt about everything, and after you change your opinion at certain times. So, these RED LIGHTS define the film like discordant notes. Things that shouldn’t be there. There’s detail in the picture that tells you what’s going wrong, or doesn’t fit in the picture. From this moment on, the audience becomes searchers of “red lights”. They become “red lighters”. So, that’s why I didn’t want to give certain information in the beginning. Because every time I give new information, they need to re-evaluate the situation, which is exactly what I wanted them to do.


QUESTION: You mention before INDIANA JONES in NORTH BY NORTHWEST. When you were growing up, what movie made you want to make movies?


RODRIGO: Hard to say. I would say anything by Martin Scorsese. The first of his films I saw was THE COLOR OF MONEY. I remember when I saw it, I thought it was more cinema than what others were doing. I wasn’t able to explain it yet. But it was completely cinematic, and I reacted very strongly to these directors. Hitchcock was another one of my favorites. And Spielberg. I am influenced by sequential art. Not something that is happening nowadays with 60 frame cameras and in the editing room you figure out a way to make it work. But these things have to do with sequential art, real filmmaking, things that flow in a very fluid way, because it makes sense from the very first moment to pull all of the pieces together.


QUESTION: So, you’re saying filmmaking is a highly influential art and not just entertainment?


RODRIGO: Well, it may be both. You have to decide that you want to do that. You can tell a couple of things through entertainment. But I don’t think in formulas. That real movies are this way. They’re terms for very different visions. But some audience members are interested in other visions. I’m not telling them what to do, or what I should have done in their place. But what I hear in their voice.


QUESTION: It seems like you trying to balance your film work with theater work. How tough of a balancing act is that, especially when film roles like this comes along. You realize if you’re tied up with a theater production, you might not be able to take it. But also why is that very important to you.


CILLIAN: When I started out, I did theater for the first four years of my career exclusively. I hadn’t done theater in about six years, and I went back just last year. I did this one-man show called MR. MAN directly after we finished RED LIGHTS, and initially we thought it was going to run in Ireland. But then we took it to New York and London. If you’re enjoying it and it’s good, you can’t worry about the things you’re not available for. You have to concentrate on being good at what you’re doing at that point. For me, theater and film has always informed each other. And in fact any form of theater, film or television – any medium – for me as long as the story and characters are good, I don’t consider myself just a film actor or theater actor. It’s about good characters. But I love that connection with a live audience. Film is about capturing moments, and year and half later we have the finished product, whereas with theater you kind of signed this contract with an audience for that evening, and it’s very special, if it succeeds.


QUESTION: Did you have any role model actors?


CILLIAN: I kind of came to it by accident. I remember watching Robert DeNiro & Sigourney Weaver movies before ever thinking of being an actor, and I came to it very late in my 20’s. Obviously all of the great ones, and I still have lots of heroes. But I find it to be a little reductive to talk about your influences, because everybody by nature is different. Getting to watch these guys close up, and watch them work huge for me, and I hope I observed and learned. But you got to just follow your own star.


QUESTION: Was there scenes that you found to be more difficult or remember standing out?


CILLIAN: Every single moment was just amazing. In Spain, the crew was just incredible, and we worked so fast, so hard. But I loved every minute of it. Again, I don’t like actors who complain. We’re so lucky to be working. It was a joy.


QUESTION: Can’t let an interview go by without asking about AT SWIM-TWO BIRDS. Is that ever going to happen?


CILLIAN: Well, I hope so. Yeah, (actor/writer/director) Brendan Gleeson is the man’s ass. But all the good will is there. So, fingers crossed. It’s hard to get movies financed these days.






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