Michel Gondry Exclusive Video Interview THE GREEN HORNET; Plus an Update on His Animated Noam Chomsky Documentary

     January 12, 2011


With Sony’s The Green Hornet arriving in theaters this weekend, I got to sit down with the cast and the filmmakers on the Sony lot last weekend.  Over the past two days I’ve posted  Seth Rogen/Cameron Diaz and Jay Chou (Kato). For tonight’s installment, I’ve got director Michel Gondry.

What I especially loved about talking to Gondry was how relaxed it was.  When I sat down, I noticed that he’d created a Green Hornet TV microphone flag and attempted to run the interview like we were on TV.  It’s how the interview started and ended.  Which was very different and a lot of fun.

Anyway, during our extended conversation we talked about his haircut (really), the buzz on Green Hornet, what did editor Sally Menke bring to the film, how he edited a very cool scene, what might be on the DVD/Blu-ray, and he gave me an update on his animated documentary that he’s doing on Noam Chomsky. So what are you waiting for, hit the jump to watch, read or listen to Green Hornet TV with Michel Gondry!

Finally, a few last words before the interview.  When we can, we’re going to offer full transcripts and audio files for all our video interviews.  While we will never do 100% of our interviews in this format, when we can, we will.  So up first is the Gondry video, then further down the page is the full transcript and audio.  Hope you like it.

Michel Gondry

  • Shows off the microphone flag he created
  • Talks about his haircut
  • The buzz that’s been online
  • Talks to the audience about the trailer and how he didn’t cut it
  • Sally Menke talk. What did she bring to the film
  • We talk about a very cool bit of editing in the film
  • Talks about how Fritz Lang influenced the film
  • Talks about an animated documentary he’s doing on Noam Chomsky
  • Deleted scenes talk. Will it be on the DVD/Blu-ray

Here’s the full transcript.  You can also listen to the audio by clicking here.

Collider: What has it been like for you… you’ve made a great movie, but there was definitely a lot of people talking online saying the movie has problems, it’s not good, blah blah, blah. But all of a sudden, the tide has turned. Everyone online is talking about how good it is.

Michel Gondry: You know why?

Do I know why?

Gondry: Yes.

Because it’s a good movie.

Gondry: Well, not because of that. Because the difference between before and after is before they’d even seen the film. And after, they saw the film. So all this bad talking was before anyone saw the film. It’s so funny because I remember reading the studio hated the movie… before they even saw anything of the movie. So it was clearly a rumor. What’s more worrying is like, people were perpetrating the rumor and didn’t check if it had any credibility. If they had checked their source, they would have seen that it was a created rumor by maybe somebody who had interest against us; I don’t know where it came from. But since we’ve shown the movie, as you said, the tide has turned around. I’m sure there are still people who are going to stick to their opinion. But the opinion was based on nothing, or sometimes the trailer. If you’re not grown up enough to understand that a trailer is not done by the director, then fine. Judge the movie from the trailer. I’m just saying to everyone. The director does not direct the trailer. It’s an edited version that takes so many moments of the movie, sometimes it’s not even in the movie. The director does the movie. So don’t judge the director based on the trailer. Please.

michel_gondry_imageI’ve spoken to a number of filmmakers recently. I know David Fincher looks at a lot of his ad material; commercials, trailers. He’s a micromanager. I’ve spoken to a number of other filmmakers who are now getting more involved in helping to create the trailer. Is that something in the future that you might take more control of?

Gondry: No. I don’t thrive on control. I’m not looking for control. I think I get better results when I don’t control things. So, the main thing is I don’t want to be blamed on something I didn’t do. If people don’t like the trailer, then blame it on the people who made the trailer. I think the trailer is great, and has been evolving, and I have no problem with them. It’s not my job. One time on The Science of Sleep I tried to direct my own trailer and it was a disaster. So we gave the footage back to the company and they made the trailer.  It’s a different job. It’s not my job. It doesn’t really interest me. And I’m not a micromanagement guy. I prefer to spend my time doing other stuff than that.

I’m a huge fan of Sally Menke. Sally worked on the project for a little while. Could you talk about what Sally was able to do on her time, working on the project?

Gondry: Well I think she had a very… well, first of all it’s really very sad what happened. It’s a terrible thing. Her loss is very terrible. I met her family and it’s really upsetting. She helped us to give an edge of strength to the fights. It’s funny because you would think by hiring a woman editor, she would bring more femininess but it’s actually the contrary. What she brought is like… the fight became sharper in a way.

the_green_hornet_movie_poster_02There’s a great sequence where the frame keeps on breaking apart. Could you talk about how that sequence came together? Was it always imagined that way when you first started filming it?

Gondry: Yeah it was always imagined this way. You could not have come up with that in post-production. The way it was filmed was very specific. It was like a Rubik’s cube to solve because we had to follow… basically, for the audience, you start with one character and then you meet three others, let’s say two others. Then we follow each one of them. When they walk together, you see one frame. And when they go apart, then the frame splits and the camera divides in two and you follow the two of them. And then each one meets two other people. And the two of them split for the people that are speaking. We keep following them. So one frame we divide the screen into 16 frames without any visual transition. There is no cut. It’s all like a cellular division. So we had to follow the journey of each character from the beginning to the end. So when we filmed Popeye, the first guy, he’s going to talk to the ladies, then he walks a bit and he leaves them and we follow him. He’s going back underneath to the restaurant. In the same location, he talks to the Japanese guy, and then he leaves this guy and he talks to another guy in the car, then going to the car, and we follow the car. Then he talks to them again and leaves. And that’s the end of his segment. Then we go back to the last person he met. The last person he met when we followed him. The person he was talking to stood, without moving, at the same spot. So we come back to the same position, and now we follow this guy doing his part. Leaving at this moment. Then, when we’re done with that we come back to the second person to the last that he talked to, which was the guy in the car. This guy has not moved all this time so we follow him now, and then come back to the girl he was speaking to first. Then we follow the girl and we do all that with the girl. So it’s like if you took a trunk of a tree, and you have to shoot all the way to the end of the branch, then you come back to the trunk and come back to the second… no, actually you don’t come back to the trunk. You come back to the first branch. Then when you’re back to the first branch you go to the second branch and you go all the way to the end and so on.

How long did it take to film that sequence?

Gondry: One night.

Green-Hornet-movie-image-seth-rogenReally? That’s…

Gondry: And it was with second unit with me directing, which was in addition to my time with the first unit so I was pretty tired.

[Laughs] Yea, I can imagine.

Gondry: But the idea came early on in the story where we needed to feel that the world was getting aware. Like, the main criminal Chudnofsky, played by Christoph Waltz, could not take any more of The Green Hornet. So we wanted all of this underworld to know about The Green Hornet and to get after him. So this is illustration of the trust mission of the information. How it was one person to talk to two person, who talks to eight and so forth. I had this clip of M by Fritz Lang where the criminals can’t take any more of the child murderer because he makes all the gangsters look bad. And the police is after this killer and the criminals and gangsters are after him. There is a geometrical way; it’s not a split screen or anything like that. There’s a very geometrical way which Fritz Lang used to do because it was very geometrical. It’s why he’s one of my favorite directors. We would see, I remember, a compass tracing sticker on the map and they would say, ‘OK, we’re going to target all these areas to find M,’ and then we go to a bigger circle and it was very geometrical. There was this music that we used for a while for inspiration. But I mean the reason has nothing to do with Fritz Lang, it was how I can make the studio… we need this moment where we feel The Green Hornet is there, out in the world.

The-Green-Hornet-movie-image-seth-rogenI have to ask you, you’re always involved in very unique projects as well as Hollywood kind of things… what is circling in your life right now that fans can look forward to?

Gondry: I’m doing an animated documentary on Noam Chomsky. So it’s very specific. I’ve been interviewing him many times and I took all the sound, because I barely shot him… I shot him a few occasions but mostly it’s sound. I’m doing it in animation so I have my animation camera, it’s a Bolex 16mm. And I’m doing all the drawings. It’s something I do every night when I go home. It’s very exciting to be very complex because we talk about linguistics and it’s… captivating because he has this very personal and convincing views on how language was created as a genetic mutation more than a slow, evolutionary process. And I’m illustrating that.

When do you expect to be done with the project?

Gondry: I hope to be done before… I die. Or before he dies. Or before the world dies. So… I hope within two years. Maximum.

Evan Goldberg was telling me about a great sequence that was cut out of the movie between Seth Rogen and Christoph in a bar.

Gondry: Yea.

Green-Hornet-movie-image-seth-rogenAnd he sounded very excited about the scene and it sounded really cool to me. What was the reason why you cut the sequence out and will it definitely be on the DVD/Blu-ray?

Gondry: I’m not sure if it is… I guess it is. It was a great scene because it was the first time that the two main characters of the film, the villain and the hero, meet and then they’re not aware of each other. They just have a very casual interaction. The problem when you edit a film together, when you shoot a film, you are drawn into the moment. You want each moment to be special and full of life. But sometimes you… can’t have a bigger view or perspective of the whole movie. But I have to have it in a certain level. But many times I lose that. And when you’re back in your edit room, then you only deal with that. So basically there is a moment where you want the action to take over on the character. It was this moment in the middle of the story where Kato and Britt are apart. And I think this moment had to be shot as short as possible because it felt like we were not in the movie anymore. We’re not in the same story. So unfortunately, a lot of elements was in this sequence between their breakup with the fight, and they end up in the swimming pool, and when they’re reunited in the restaurant. All that we had important scene where they were all great, but we had to make this one as short as possible otherwise people would feel disengaged to the story.  So when you edit the movie, you respond to another type of problem than when you are shooting each scene. And that is what takes over, basically. You have to make the decision to butcher the film in some ways. I mean, you can’t feel sorry for a scene. If the movie works without the scene, then you don’t need the scene.

So will it be on the DVD/Blu-ray?

Gondry: I hope so. I don’t know exactly, but I’m pretty sure it will be.

How long was this scene? Was it 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes?

Gondry: It was probably about a minute and a half.

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