This is a great, extensive interview with David Michôd for Cinema Australia. We’re posting an excerpt but check out the entire interview in the link below.
I want to go back to the beginning for a moment. You launched your feature film career as a co-writer on American movie, Hesher staring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. How important was it for you to follow it up with an Australian film like Animal Kingdom?
Well I had been writing Animal Kingdom for years just after I had finished film school. I worked on that screenplay for maybe nine years. While I was doing that I was also doing lots of other things and one of those other things was co-writing Hesher with my good friend Spencer Susser. It weirdly cam about that Animal Kingdom and Hesher shot at the same time. While I was shooting Animal Kingdom in Melbourne Spenser was shooting Hesher in LA which meant I couldn’t go over and be a part of it while he was making it. So they kind of happened simultaneously and played together at Sundance in the same year of 2010.
Critically, Animal Kingdom was a very successful film. Was the process of developing The Rover made easier based on the success of that film?
Developing it was just like developing anything. It was me writing, rewriting and rewriting again. Certainly putting it together, getting people to look at it and getting the film financed was made a lot easier. When it came time to cast, for instance Rob Pattinson’s role, I found myself in a very privileged position of being able to get a number of really quite accomplished actors to get in and test for me. One of whom was Rob. Certainly having something already under your belt that has gotten a lot of attention makes that process a lot easier.
You mentioned other actors had tested for the role of Rey. Anyone you’d care to mention?
I can’t say that. I can’t speak out of school. [Laughs].
There is a very detailed online companion to The Rover. Was the backstory developed before you started the script or did it all begin with, ‘Australia. Ten years after the collapse.’?
Originally it started with me and Joel Edgerton talking about a movie we thought we would write for his brother Nash to direct. With Nash being a very accomplished stunt man and director and particularly good at directing visceral action cinema we thought that we would write a movie that would just be a car chase in the dessert kind of movie. Joel and I spent about ten days fleshing the skeleton of the story out and then I went away to write the first draft and very quickly started writing the kind of movie that I would want to make. There was some point in the later stages of all of that where I started feeding the world of the movie into the screenplay. I wanted to set it a few decades into the future because I wanted the film to be about these two characters in an incredibly hostile and dangerous environment and have the movie in a way being a fable about people’s need for human connection.
Are you anxious something like the economic collapse depicted in The Rover could happen to a country like Australia?
Yeah. In a way I started feeding this stuff into the screenplay because I was observing, with some despair, what is already happening to the world. This was not long after the financial crisis when I was observing the ways in which it seems like the people in the financial industry are almost rewarded for their entirely disruptive greed. It is for that reason that I didn’t want The Rover to be a post apocalyptic movie – I wanted it to feel like everything that had gone wrong in the world was an entirely plausible product of the forces at work today.
The world of The Rover is dominated by desperate men with only a couple of brief female roles. Was a lack of stronger female characters intentional for any particular reason?
I don’t think it lacks them. There’s only like five characters in the movie and two of them are women. It’s an entirely plausible and unfortunate byproduct of a world that gets left to fall into decay that it would be a very inhospitable environment for women. The two characters that are in there, the Gillian Jones and Susan Prior characters are both women who have stuck it out in their own respective ways. So yeah, it was intentional that it feels a bit male heavy because I wanted there to be a sense of what might become of women in this kind of world.
Film and television violence is becoming more and more realistic and The Rover is no exception. Is it important to make screen violence so realistic to correlate with a desensitised audience?
For me violence in cinema is no more and no less than a very powerful dramatic tool. In a way its power in cinema plugs into our entirely understandable fear that we all have of our own death. Violence functions so powerfully and dramatically in cinema because it has the capacity to turn characters lives upside down. I never like revelling in violence for its own sake but I’m completely fascinated by the dramatic potential it has to upend characters in the story. In terms of mainstream cinema it doesn’t look very realistic to me in the first place. There’s no denying the fact that violence is a pretty prevalent feature of contemporary cinema but I never choose to demoralise it because in a way it makes sense to me that it’s there. I don’t subscribe to the idea that it’s somehow programming young people into an acceptance of violence in a healthy way because I think that what it actually does is plug into our collective fear of violence.
Click HERE to continue the interview. It’s very detailed and David talks about Guy and Rob, Australian cinema and more!