With Lion now playing in limited release, I recently sat down with director Garth Davis for an extended video interview. During our wide-ranging conversation he talked about making his feature debut (he previously helmed the miniseries Top of the Lake), the challenge of casting a child actor, balancing fact and fiction, how he collaborates with his cinematographer, what he learned from test screenings, filming in India, and more. In addition, he also talked about his next movie, Mary Magdalene, and getting Joaquin Phoenix to play Jesus.
If you aren’t familiar with Lion, it’s based on the true story of a young man named Saroo who became separated from his family in India at the age of five and was subsequently adopted by an Australian family. As a five-year-old, Saroo could not correctly explain where, exactly, he was from, and thus all hopes of finding his family were lost. As an adult, however, the advent of Google Earth provides Saroo with a unique opportunity, as he sets about finding his long lost family once and for all. The film stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, and Sunny Pawar.
Finally, while I knew the story of Lion before sitting down to watch it, the way Garth Davis told the story floored me and it’s a hell of a debut. I’m extremely confident Davis will be making a lot more movies in the coming years and I can’t wait to see them.
Here’s what we talked about during the interview. Look for some more Lion interviews soon.
What about Lion made him choose it as his feature debut.
- Balancing fact and fiction.
- Filming in India.
- The challenge of casting a child actor for young Saroo.
- Why it’s important to trust your instincts as a filmmaker.
- His thoughts on his first cut.
- What he learned from test screenings.
- He does have a director’s cut on the way.
- His thoughts on the director’s cut versus the theatrical cut.
- How he collaborates with his cinematographer.
- If Google sent him a “Thank You” for showcasing Google Earth in such a positive light.
- Why he wanted to direct Mary Magdalene.
- Getting Joaquin Phoenix to play Jesus in Mary Magdalene.
- How he approaches directing controversial subject matter.
- What he learned from making Lion.
- Moving right from Lion to Mary Magdalene.
- His plan after finishing post-production on Mary Magdalene.
- The challenges of shooting on a short schedule.
- Getting permits for shooting in India.
- His approach to storyboarding.
- Why he prefers to do fewer takes.
- How he shoots with two cameras.