There are a bunch of great print interviews out there for The Rover that we’re going to be posting over the next several days. They’re already great reads but even better after you’ve seen the film.
This is a collection of those interviews from David Michôd, including some new stills from the official account for The Rover. First up is Interview magazine.
“I have no idea what people expected my second movie to be like,” announces Australian writer-director David Michôd at a New York screening of The Rover, “but this is it.” Michôd’s follow-up to 2010’s Oscar-nominated Animal Kingdom, The Rover does not come from a happy place. Set 10 years after “the collapse,” a vague upheaval of western economy and culture, The Rover shows rural Australia as a desolate, dusty, forgotten wasteland. The only inhabitants are a handful of society’s most easily overlooked—old men clutching guns, drug dealers, murderers, pimps, prostitutes, immigrants fleeing from an even greater destruction—and a paltry military police force.
“I wrote the first draft in 2007 and then in 2008, the financial crisis happened,” Michôd explains the next day. “I started imagining where we were headed, finding myself filled with a kind of strange despair, which then, on occasion, would retake into anger,” he continues.
Despair permeates The Rover: The film opens with Guy Pearce sitting in a nondescript car. He is disheveled and dirty; his face defined by wrinkles and sun freckles, and flecks of grey in his beard. When he exits the car, one shoulder slumps down and he walks with a limp. He crosses the road to drink in a small shack and three criminals steal his car. He chases them down unsuccessfully. One of the criminals, Henry (played by Scoot McNairy), is an American, with a younger brother, Rey (Robert Pattinson), left for dead at their previous destination.
Although, when the credits appear, Guy Pearce’s character is listed as “Eric,” he is never once addressed by this name in the film. Everyone he meets is a stranger, and he is referred to as “mate,” “sweetheart,” “my baby,” and “cunt.” Eric and Rey form an unlikely partnership to track down Henry and the car. Rey is looking for friendship, kindness—any sort of anchor to the world. Eric is too far gone to be looking for anything.
Co-written and produced by Michôd’s close friend actor Joel Edgerton, The Rover debuted last month at Cannes.
EMMA BROWN: Guy Pearce’s character poses a question in the film: “What feeling do you get in the morning when your feet touch the floor?” So, I was wondering, what feeling do you get in the morning when your feet touch the floor?
DAVID MICHÔD: [laughs]
BROWN: Is this the eighth time you’ve been asked this today?
MICHÔD: No. Surprisingly, no. This is kind of at the core of the whole movie. In the space of—I’ve managed to condense it down to just fractions of seconds—but I go from, “What is the point of this whole thing?” to, “The only reason to get out of bed in the morning is to form meaningful connections with other human beings.” Which is what the movie is about.
BROWN: Do you have any brothers?
MICHÔD: Two younger ones.
BROWN: The fraternal relationships in both Animal Kingdom and The Rover are a bit dysfunctional. Do your brothers ever worry about what they’ve inspired in you?
MICHÔD: No. They don’t. My mother’s asked that question a few times. [laughs] Especially after Animal Kingdom, I felt like I needed to make clear to people quite regularly that I had a perfectly functional home life; a perfectly functional family life. I have no idea why I’m attracted to these dark and dysfunctional relationships in the movies.
BROWN: Guy Pearce is also in your first film, Animal Kingdom. Did you know him before that film?
MICHÔD: No. That was one of the things that was really reassuring for me when I was trying to put that movie together. It being a first movie, I needed those little affirmations from people that this was a thing that was worth doing at all. A lot of the actors in the film I already knew. Guy was the most famous and his enthusiastic and early response to the script was really encouraging for me. We ended up shooting the movie about a year after he became attached and his willingness—eagerness—to stay involved and make it work I always found very encouraging. He would be reading a lot of stuff and saying no to a lot of things.
BROWN: Did you think Guy would accept your offer when you brought Animal Kingdom to him, or did it feel like a total pipe dream?
MICHÔD: I just didn’t know. I didn’t know what was going to happen. You throw those things out into the ether—because he was my first choice, it wasn’t like I’d already had nine rejections and finally landed on Guy. I didn’t know how the script was going to land in the world.
BROWN: With The Rover, did you start with the idea of Guy’s character or the collapse? What was the initial seed?
MIMICHÔD: The character. It was more just a kind of idea or a type of movie. I remember Joel Edgerton and I started talking about it in 2007 when we were in L.A. Joel and I were at relative loose ends—I think my ends were looser than his; I didn’t really know why I was there. I hadn’t yet made any of the shorts that got me some attention, and I certainly hadn’t made Animal Kingdom. We started talking about a story that we imagined one day his brother would direct. Given his brother’s cinematic proclivities, we thought that this movie would be a car chase movie in the desert. We spent about 10 days working a story out that revolved around, at its origin, a guy who had his car stolen and spent the rest of the movie trying to get it back. I went away to write this first draft and then very quickly and unsurprisingly started writing a movie that I would want to make, which doesn’t have a whole lot of car chases in it. That’s where it began. The nature of the collapse and the world was stuff that found it’s way into the script after I’d made Animal Kingdom. So much of it was about my feelings of despair about where the world was heading, in a way that I’d never felt before. Maybe it was a product of me getting older, but I’d always had this sense that, no matter what the world was like today, there was always great potential for it to get better. Sometime after the financial crisis— seeing the ways in which sociopathic men were given a license to just destroy western economies coupled with our seeming complete intransigence with regard to the issue of environmental degradation—I just started to think, “What will become of us.”
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Next is from The Playlist:
Bone-dry, brutal and so slender it’s almost emaciated, Australian director David Michôd’s second feature, after his terrific debut “Animal Kingdom,” premiered in Cannes to high anticipation and ultimately mixed reviews. We really liked “The Rover,” which stars Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson as unlikely companions on a bleak road trip across a collapsed and exhausted near-future Australia (review here), but can understand how Michôd’s vision of a hellish ruined world, in which the first luxury to disappear is human kindness, might have proven simply too unrelentingly bleak for some; it’s the type of film into whose deliberately empty spaces one can read everything, or nothing at all.
We got to sit down with Michôd in Cannes on a day as rainy and windy as the film is parched and baked for a very enjoyable, in-depth talk about the casting process and his future projects, but mostly about the film itself—how he thought originally he was writing the script for Nash Edgerton to direct and how it’s different from his much-lauded debut. And we also talked quite a bit about the social and philosophical questions that “The Rover” raises. It’s a film that describes an unusually tiny but fascinating arc from nihilism to a kind of existentialism in which a man goes from believing that life is essentially meaningless, to understanding that meaning can be found but you have to make the hard choice to create it for yourself. But if that kind of chit-chat isn’t your bag, then perhaps you may enjoy the interview on the basis that, hand on pounding heart, Robert Pattinson was in the room the whole time.
“The Rover” feels like a much sparer film than your first. Is that because, as I’ve heard, the script predates “Animal Kingdom”?
Well, it predated me shooting “Animal Kingdom.” I wrote “Animal Kingdom” for eight or nine years, while I was learning how to write and making short films and writing other things for other people. And one of the things that I wrote during that period was “The Rover.”
Was that first script very different from the one that went into production?
Yes and no. I had always set out to make something that felt very elemental, very lean so in the course of me trying to work out what my second movie would be I ended up coming back to “The Rover” because I loved how it was tonally speaking the same language as “Animal Kingdom” but was formally very different.
I didn’t want to make “Animal Kingdom” again, and I didn’t want to make a movie that was bigger and more complex than “Animal Kingdom” either, even though I would like to still do that at some point. I wanted for something that was a lot leaner in narrative, more muscular, more…
Mmm, sinewy. Yes.
And was there anything specific that you learned during the intervening “Animal Kingdom” years that you brought back to “The Rover”?
I discovered when I was editing “Animal Kingdom” that stuff that I had written that I thought was necessary was actually extraneous. And even things that I thought I knew like “get into a scene late and get out of it early,” I discovered when I was cutting, you could start even later … And one of the upsetting things was that very frequently I had started scenes with some of my favorite pieces of dialogue. So actually a lot of what hit the floor in “Animal Kingdom” was my favorite stuff.
So you learned to put all your favorite bits of dialogue into the middle of the scene?
Ha, yeah, or to just think really hard and rigorously about when I was entering that scene. Other than that I felt like I have over the years and years since I finished film school been honing my writing craft and this was just an extension of that. So the next draft of “The Rover,” those passes felt more mature.
Having said that when I originally started “The Rover” I thought I was writing it for someone else to direct—my friend Nash Edgerton, who’s a great director of action, so the original draft of it was far more of a car chase movie. And when I knew that I wanted to make it which happened very quickly.
You had a massive falling out with Nash Edgerton?
No, no! I actually felt kind of lucky, because when I showed it to him, he was busy so we both just sort of put it aside. And then when I looked at it again for myself I looked at all these car chases and thought “this isn’t the movie that I want to make. This isn’t even a movie that I would want to see.” So I stripped a lot of that stuff out and drew it back to what it was always about for me which was the strange finding of human connection between these two very different characters.
And now do you consider yourself a writer who directs or a director who also writes?
If anything I’d say “filmmaker”—they all feel like parts of one big process to me. After “Animal Kingdom” I did a lot of reading of other people’s scripts because I wanted to stay open to the possibility that I might do that, partly because it would make the movement of my career a lot easier—the movies would happen a lot quicker. But I realized quite quickly that I like building the projects from the ground up. I was reading other people’s screenplays and very often really enjoying them but feeling like I was being asked to make a movie that had already been half made. For me being on set is just the next stage of the writing process and that process continues right the way through editing and post. And when I’m writing, that’s the first stage of the directing process as well.
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The final one in this batch is from Screencrush.
In this dystopian future, murder seems like a nonchalant afterthought at times.
Well, at the same time, I wanted that first killing to be the thing that sort of catapults the movie into a kind of different and dangerously unpredictable place. You know that this guy has something going on that is unusual, but it’s not until that moment that he becomes frighteningly volatile. For me and for Guy, we talked quite a bit about what that murder meant. Was this just something he did every day? Or was this something he hadn’t done in ten years?
Did the success of ‘Animal Kingdom’ make it easier this time around to get ‘The Rover’ made?
I think so, but I don’t really know. Having said that, working on what the next movie should be and how to make it felt really difficult. It took me four years. So, nothing about it felt easy … but it certainly didn’t take me as long as the first one did. And once I had decided definitively what the second movie should be, it did feel like it happened reasonably smoothly.
I know you hadn’t seen the ‘Twilight’ movies before casting Robert Pattinson, but what does his fame bring to this movie? Does that help? Can it possibly hurt?
I don’t know, it’s all a great unknown to me. You know, I love the idea of being able to take a person who I can only imagine his talents have been grossly underestimated.
This is a good movie for him, along with the Cronenberg films.
He’s a really smart guy with great taste. And he knows the filmmakers that he wants to work with. But, who knows what it will mean for the movie in the public consciousness, you know? I have no idea whether or not it will work for us or against us. But, I don’t really care — because I love the surprise and the revelation of it. And I would hope that people embrace it, because I think he’s really good in it. It was never going to be enough for me that he gave just a good, solid performance. It was always important for me that he give an extraordinary one — and I think he does it. He and Guy both.
Whose idea was it for Robert Pattinson’s character to have tics?
That was his. They felt organic. I don’t know how conscious and deliberate they were for him, but when I was watching them, they felt like this nice little organic manifestations of the character.
And you dirtied him up.
[Laughs] It had to happen. For me, Rob’s character is like a lost puppy dog. He’s lost his owner and he just kind of latches on to the first person he finds. It happens to be a particularly bad choice.
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