Interview: Tony Gilroy

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Time Out meets Oscar-nominated writer-director Tony Gilroy to talk about his follow-up to corporate thriller 'Michael Clayton', Julia Roberts/Clive Owen heist caper 'Duplicity'

'Duplicity', starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, opens this week, while ‘State of Play’, an American adaptation of the BBC drama written by Gilroy and directed by Kevin Macdonald, is due in April.

Did you want to make something lighter after ‘Michael Clayton’?
‘Actually I wrote the script a while before “Michael Clayton”. But I’d waited so long to make my first movie that once that was finished I tried to get the next one made quickly. The idea was to do something completely different.’

Where did the story come from?

‘I love the idea of spies in love. How would it work between two people who were so programmed to lie and be suspicious, who have a whole life based on pretence? First of all, it would be hard for them to have a relationship with anybody else, they’d have to find someone of the same species. But how do they make a relationship? So it’s a romance that never uses the words “commitment” or “biological clock”.’

What is it about the business world that fascinates you?
‘Corporations are like countries now, there’s a king, there are serfs, there’s a court, basically everything but moats. They’re feudal societies, and there are good ones and bad ones. There’s also a great dramatic tension between what’s public and what’s private. Everyone I know who used to be in the intelligence community is moving into the corporate world.’

Was the movie inspired by capers like ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’?
‘I like movies that pop, that have a little bit of candy on, that freedom to have a little bit of extra fun, but are rooted in real behaviour. Rooted in cause and effect, never violating reality.’

Did you consider directing ‘State of Play’?
‘No, Kevin Macdonald brought me in on that. I was in a bad taxi accident, I had to live on the ground floor of my house for three months. The call came in to write the script, and I was like, “You’re kidding, I can’t go anywhere, it takes me an hour to take a shower.” But I watched the show and I had a very honest conversation with Kevin, and we were in sync about what we liked and didn’t like. I said to him, “You’re gonna have to come here and run up and down stairs and make me tea.” It was a very intense writing experience, we worked hard. But then it needed other writers. Then Brad Pitt dropped out and there was the writers’ strike. I wanted to go to the set when they were shooting in Culver City, but with the strike I thought it wouldn’t look good.’

So the writers’ strike affected every area of your working life?
‘We were prepping “Duplicity” with the knowledge that the script I filed had to be the one I shot. I was writing until midnight of the deadline. We had to shoot word for word what was in the script. I was pro-strike, very militant, but it was an impossible situation. At least we won, despite what you read.’

There have been rumours of a fourth ‘Bourne’ movie. Would you write it?

‘I’m out of it. I’m sure there’s a big economic incentive to make it, but they only need one person to say yes, and everyone knows who that is. I don’t even know where we’d go at this point. It would be a good idea to keep moving forward. I want to try to write something fresh, see if I remember how to do that.’

Duplicity’ opens on Friday March 20, ‘State of Play’ opens on April 24.

Author: Tom Huddleston



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