Mark Romanek is an incredibly talented filmmaker from whom we have seen far too little. The director first gained notice for his work in the world of music videos, helming Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”, Michael and Janet Jackson’s “Scream”, and most notably Johnny Cash’s hauntingly beautiful “Hurt.” Then in 2002, Romanek directed his second feature, the psychological thriller One Hour Photo starring Robin Williams. The film was met with both critical and commercial success, and is now getting its long-deserved HD treatment with a Blu-ray transfer that was supervised by Romanek himself.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Romanek on the phone in anticipation of the Blu-ray release for One Hour Photo (available now), and during the course of our conversation, the Never Let Me Go filmmaker talked about what it was like to revisit one of his films so extensively a decade after its release, the Blu-ray’s extras, developing a limited series at FX, what happened with Cinderella, his future projects, and more. Romanek also spoke about his departure from 2010’s The Wolfman and what his vision for that film entailed, and he talked about his desire to make a film on a larger canvas. Hit the jump to read the full interview.
MARK ROMANEK: Yeah, I mean it was a long time coming and I tried to stay involved with all the details of it. I’m really proud of the cover, actually, it’s a beautiful cover designed by Neil Kellerhouse. I think it’s really nice.
Yeah it’s a gorgeous piece of work. What was it like to revisit one of your films so extensively a decade later?
ROMANEK: It was more enjoyable from the sense of just the personal memories of doing it with a lot of friends and the days when we were just having a good time and Robin was making us laugh. From a creative standpoint, it’s hard for me. I don’t like watching older work, like a lot of people say I just always see the errors of youth and undeveloped craft sensibility. It’s not the most fun on that level, but on the other level it was kind of a trip to go back and see all that stuff.
How did the compiling of the new extras come about?
ROMANEK: Well when we made the film DVDs were really right at the crest of their popularity so we were preparing a lot of stuff. The film came out and was reasonably successful and I asked the studio if we could do a special double disk and they said, “Oh no, no we’re not gonna do a double disc for this.” And I said, “Well that’s disappointing because we have all this stuff,” and the guy kind of laughingly said, “Well if it does 1.5 million units maybe we’ll talk about doing a special edition,” which was an unheard of amount to sell for a film like this, and of course it did. It did hugely well on home video, I think it did something like $75 million on home video, so the guy was stuck and he had to do it because he promised me, which he thought was never gonna happen. But then I think he left the studio and it just sort of never did happen; I got busy with other films and so we had all this material in the vault for a long time. So it was all pretty much ready to go, it wasn’t a lot of work in that respect because we had already prepared a lot of stuff back in the day.
How do you feel the film has aged since its initial release? It seems like a lot of the nuance of psychological thrillers has been gutted and transported to a “case of the week” story on any number of procedural series on network TV, and so a movie like One Hour Photo seems almost rare nowadays.
ROMANEK: Well I don’t know if I’m the one to ask. Like I said, I haven’t really watched it as a viewer; I was watching it for technical reasons to confirm that the digital transfer was up to snuff. So I’m kinda the last person to ask that question, I didn’t really look at it to judge it and judge how it stood up. That’s for other people to say I think. How did you think it stood up?
I think it works really well. When I was revisiting it, I was just surprised to discover that it feels so long that I’ve seen something like this in a feature film. Like I said, it just feels like a lot of those stories have been pared down to their most basic premise for network TV.
ROMANEK: Well that’s good.
I know you shot the pilot for Locke & Key, and speaking of TV the television landscape has become kind of a haven for original storytelling. If you look at what David Fincher did with House of Cards, it’s brilliant. Is delving back into television something that interests you?
ROMANEK: Yeah I just sold a limited series idea to Fox because Fox is planning to turn FX and/or the Fox Movie Network into their sort of HBO for their higher quality, long-form things. So I’m planning to get started on that, it may be alongside movie projects as opposed to the very next thing that I do, but that’s something we’re developing. It’s a true crime story that’s so rich and complex and interesting that it could never be squeezed into a two and a half hour movie.
Is that something that you would write as well as direct, or would you just produce?
ROMANEK: I may write the first hour and help conceive of the overriding arch of the thing narratively, but I don’t think that I could write nine hours of television probably or want to make the time commitment to do that. But I plan to supervise the whole thing on a creative level the same way David Fincher did with House of Cards.
That’s really exciting.
ROMANEK: Yeah it is.
If you don’t mind, I definitely want to ask about The Wolfman. Like many others I was really looking forward to seeing your version of that. What did your vision for that project entail or what kind of specific vision did you have for the character?
ROMANEK: Well did you see or hear the recent keynote address that Soderbergh gave?
I did, yes.
ROMANEK: He makes a distinction between cinema and movies that I think is very accurate, and what I was trying to do and thought I was invited to do—and that Benicio [Del Toro] and I were trying to do together—was infuse a balance of cinema in a popcorn movie scenario. When there’s a certain amount of money involved, these things make studios and producers a little nervous. They don’t necessarily understand it or they feel that the balance will swing too far to something esoteric, and we could never come to an agreement on the right balance for that type of thing. Ultimately it made more sense for them to find a director that was gonna fulfill their idea of the film that they wanted, and we just sort of parted ways. But you know a lot of work had gone into it for a long time and so it was disappointing, but you know it happens to everybody in this business, I think, at one time or another.
Well between The Wolfman and Cinderella it seems like you have an interest in making something on this sort of grand or fantastical scale. Does working on a larger scale or on something more geared towards the genre side of things interest you?
ROMANEK: Yeah I mean I’m eager to work on a larger canvas. I’m very proud of the two smaller films that I’ve made, but I’d like to make something with a bit more spectacle too. And yet I seem to want to infuse it with a level of cinema that sometimes makes people nervous, and perhaps I don’t know how to express it successfully or navigate the politics of the studio process as well as I could. On Cinderella we parted very amicably about it, and so it just didn’t work out.
I would really, really love to see something from you told on a bigger scale.
ROMANEK: Well if you happen to have a spare $100 million floating around, then you’re my producer (laughs).
ROMANEK: Well I wrote a script that an actor wants to do and we’re trying to find the right slot, it might be this winter. There’s another script that’s a black comedy that’s very, very funny and original, and that’s out to an actor now. And then I’ll be working on developing the limited series over at Fox, so that’s what’s going on at the moment. I do a lot of commercials in the meantime to kind of pay my bills, live on.
Well I’m looking forward to your next project, whatever it is, and I’m really eager to check out that limited series on FX.
ROMANEK: That’s really nice of you to say that, I appreciate it.
One Hour Photo is available on Blu-ray now.