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Post by Admin on Mon Aug 29, 2011 1:21 am

Director Steve Mcqueen Releases ‘Statement’ for “Shame”; Screening at Telluride Next Month

You should be very familiar with this film by now. Steve McQueen‘s sex-addiction drama Shame stars Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and Nicole Beharie. After premiering in Venice Film Festival at the end of this month, Shame will screen at the Telluride Film Festival (September 2-5th), Toronto International Film Festival and the BFI-American Express London Film Festival.

Here’s the Director’s Statement, courtesy of Venice Film Festival site:

Hunger was about a man with no freedom who used his body as a political tool and through that act created his own liberty. Shame examines a person who has all the western freedoms and through his apparent sexual freedom creates his own prison.
As we witness – and become desensitised to – the continued and continual sexualisation of society, how does anyone navigate through this maze and not be tainted by the surroundings? It is this ’elephant in the room’ that I wish to explore.

Cant wait. :-)

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Post by Admin on Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:39 pm

Posted: Sat., Sep. 3, 2011, 12:08pm PT
McQueen explores compulsions in 'Shame'
Fassbender stars in Brit helmer's second pic
By Diana Lodderhose
British helmer Steve McQueen arrives on the Lido with his second film, "Shame," after an impressive start three years ago.

The visual artist-turned-helmer picked up Venice's Gucci Group Award for crossover filmmakers for his debut feature, "Hunger," which also scooped Cannes' Camera d'Or.

He's reunited with "Hunger" star Michael Fassbender, who in "Shame" plays a man living in New York City, who has trouble controlling and managing his sexual compulsions.

McQueen says the film is about "need, hurt and desire whereby the main character, Brandon, uses sexual activity to numb the hurt inside of him."

Pic screens in competition today and then goes to Toronto. It has some intriguing names: Carey Mulligan plays the wayward sister of Fassbender's character while scribe Abi Morgan ("The Iron Lady") co-wrote the script with McQueen. "The King's Speech's" Iain Canning and Emile Sherman produce.

McQueen's second feature doesn't yet have a U.S. distrib, but has been widely anticipated.

The helmer says his approach to making it wasn't that different from "Hunger."

"I want every film to be my first film and I think it's very important to think like that," he said. "As a director, you've just constantly got to think of what is possible."

The main difference between the films is the locations, he said.

"What was interesting for me is that 'Hunger' was set in a prison in Northern Ireland, a very definite sort of place, whereas 'Shame' is set in New York City, a very contemporary and temporary place state. 'Hunger' was limited to freedom where as 'Shame' was less so."

Reuniting with Fassbender was, McQueen said, rewarding. "I think we can trust each other. It's a bit like falling in love -- when you have it you recognize it and that's it. I'm extraordinarily fortunate. I think he's the best actor out there."

Collaborating with Morgan was inspiring, he said.

"The research I did with Abi was amazing. We spoke to specialists in New York and we talked to people who deal with bad situations when there's a certain kind of heightened sexual activity."

And while the subject matter is a racy one, no doubt why U.S. buyers have waited to screen the finished pic, McQueen said Venice is the perfect fit for the preem.

"I think when you arrive in Venice as a city, you forget about things -- maybe because of the water," he said. "You arrive with your senses fully intact. The taste of food, the sound of water, every sense you have is awakened. It's a wonderful place for cinema because of that. 'Shame' will be seen in a place where people will reflect that."

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Post by Admin on Sat Sep 17, 2011 4:24 am

INTERVIEW | “Shame” Director Steve McQueen: “We have to keep cinema alive.”
by Peter Knegt (Updated 15 hours, 52 minutes ago)

From the moment it debuted at the Venice Film Festival, everybody has been talking about Steve McQueen’s “Shame.” The follow-up to his universally acclaimed directorial debut “Hunger,” “Shame” follows Brandon (Michael Fassbender, who deservedly won best actor in Venice for his performance), a thirtysomething sex addict incapable of sustaining any emotional connection with another human being. His life takes a turn when he receives a surprise visit from his equally troubled younger sister (Carey Mulligan), which forces him into some raw self-examination.

Dark, honest, and very explicit, the film has been one of the critical darlings of the past two weeks, with McQueen making it clear that the praise he received with “Hunger” was nowhere near unwarranted. Following Venice with stops in Telluride and Toronto, the film rode a wave of buzz to become one of the fall festival circuit’s most notable acquisitions as Fox Searchlight picked it up in something of a surprise move given its certain-to-get-an-NC-17 content. McQueen discussed Searchlight’s plans for the film - and many other things - when he sat down with indieWIRE in Toronto earlier this week.

So tell me a bit about the genesis of “Shame.”

It started with a conversation between myself and [‘Shame’ co-writer] Abi Morgan. We didn’t know each other at all. It was one of those situations where we had a meeting that was supposed to be scheduled for an hour but it turned out to be three hours. And even then we were still talking. From that conversation, the seed was planted. It was really about the internet, and how much that affected us. But also pornography on the internet, and from there we got into the idea of sex addiction.

After that, we went to New York and we spoke to some experts about people that have this addiction. We talked about their daily lives and things just snowballed from there. It’s all about the research. If the research hadn’t gone anywhere, the movie wouldn’t have been made. But somehow the research took us to certain places, and that was fascinating.

In terms of writing the actual script, was it collaborative in that you’d sit and write it together? Tell me how that process worked.

I think what happened with myself and Abi is that we became very close friends. And we were very direct. That kind of honesty is so important to the script and how you work together. There’s no ego. We disarm each other in the conversation. We talk and talk and talk and talk. Abi writes… I look it at it… I change it… She looks at it… And then there’s a conversation and we get somewhere. ‘That doesn’t go there, it goes here.’

The physical act of writing, Abi does. And then the whole idea of talking through it is my thing and through that we change it to how it is. It’s a collage. But it’s also research and being aware of what we hear. A lot of writing is about research. I don’t want to go into something where I’m writing about something I don’t know about. It’s all about how we learn from them. It’s wonderfully scary.

How many people did you talk to in the research?

Lots. We talked to three top experts, and we spoke to seven people with sex addiction.

In terms of Michael Fassbender’s character Brandon, did that come from one person? Or was it a bit of a collage itself?

A multitude. A multitude of people and experiences and stories.

I felt like the film itself was also clearly about a multitude of things. Yes, it’s about this man and his sex addiction, but it also felt like a social commentary on this intensely hyper-sexualized world we live in.

It’s a very intense world. Sex sells, that’s why we use it. I remember being in Venice and talking to a journalist asking a similar question to you and there were these two girls walking around in white mini-skirts selling beer. That was literally in the room when I was having this conversation. And that happens constantly in billboards and so forth. We’re all taken. We’re all involved in it. It’s just a case of being aware of it, that’s all.

And on top of that, while sex addiction has been around forever technology has really drastically changed the magnitude of possibilities surrounding it.

Precisely. It’s like obsesity. When there’s more food choices available and more carbohydrates available… That’s why people are fat. People are fat are because there’s these advertisements on TV telling you eat this, eat that. It’s the same thing with sex addiction.

“Shame” is one of the first films I’ve seen that really depicts that in a genuine way.

That’s, for me, what cinema should be. That’s what cinema is about. For me, it’s got to be about an urgency, a necessity. That’s why I liked the response to the movie. Because beforehand people were saying ‘you can’t make this film.’ But the response from the audience to me has been so heartwarming and heartfelt. It was like a dog whistle going off in the cinema. It’s the elephant in the room. All you need is an hour and a half. You don’t need twelve one hour episodes to do it. You can just hit people on the head right there. And that’s the power of cinema. Cinema’s amazing, isn’t it?

It is indeed.

And of course, we have to craft it, we have to make it… And also take a chance. Take loads of chances, experiment. Fall down and pick yourself up again. I mean, Carey [Mulligan] singing “New York, New York.” What the f&#!, do it. Whatever is closest to real life. That moment with Carey singing and Michael watching, it’s a conversation. She’s talking to him. She’s talking about their past and where they’ve come from and where they want to go. She’s talking also about New York, the environment they’re in. And the situation that most people find themselves in there.

New York is essentially the third main character.

Yes. A lot of people in New York, they work in the sky. Isn’t that weird? They work in the sky. And what I mean by that is you always have these massive windows in office buildings or apartments or whatever. Which makes your perspective of the world always framed by the world itself. So there’s all these beautiful situations with the camera where you can get these relationships in the frame… Am I going on a bit?

No, no… That scene where Carey sings in the club that’s in the skyscraper. That’s the scene I really realized how involved I was in this film. All of a sudden I felt really affected and it was very much because of this non-verbal conversation between Michael and Carey’s characters, and between them and New York itself.

No, that’s the case. You have to trust. After that, you open up. At the beginning you might not be sure, but hopefully with that scene you open up and you can start trusting the filmmaker.

In terms of casting both Michael and Carey… Clearly you’ve worked with Michael before in “Hunger.” Was he your ideal choice from the onset of you considering this project?

Yes. It was the logical choice. We love each other. That’s not an “if,” that’s not a “but,” that’s not a “maybe.” We work in shorthand now, which is kind of odd. Never would I have expected that kind of collaboration. But I have it.

Did you know him before “Hunger” or did you meet him with that film?

No, never. He auditioned for “Hunger” and from there we got on like a house on fire. That was it. And since “Hunger” that was that.

This is how it is for me. It’s almost like jazz. You write the music, okay? So you’re the bandleader. And you bring in, say Michael is John Coltrane for example. And within that framework of the melody and harmony of the song, he improvises. And he improvises within the limits of the music that has been written. With Michael, it’s a case of working through ideas and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. Until he gets to a situation where becomes a sphere. Everything he does is right. He rolls this way, it’s right. He rolls that way, it’s right.

What about with Carey Mulligan?

I think she’s a revelation. You have to get to that point of trust. I think it was harder for Carey. Michael knows me. We gained that trust with “Hunger.” You have to create this environment where people are comfortable. We actually had such a laugh on set. Because we were doing such a tragedy in some ways. But the set was so warm and so friendly and people felt safe. So that they can do what they need to do.

That was my next question with regard to how to the environment was on set. Because if you don’t feel safe, you can’t expose yourself in the way that both Michael and Carey did.

Exactly. We had to work with Carey a lot. We talked a lot about the character and the nature of her character. We just went into it in very big detail. And basically, there are some people who will live until they are 110 years old who have compromised their life to get by. And then there are some people who refuse to compromise. And often these people die very young and it’s extraordinarily tragic. These people won’t survive. So we talked about that and we talked about people that we know. To work with an actor, I have to know the actor. We have to be open. I don’t hide people, I work with people.

And you wouldn’t have been able to make this movie if you did it the other way around.

No, I couldn’t. Because what we’re doing is dangerous.

And in terms of screening it this past week or so in Venice and here in Toronto, what has it been like seeing audience reactions? There was a report here that someone fainted while watching “Shame.”

Yes, I heard that. It’s the second time someone’s fainted in my movies. “Hunger” and this. Brilliant.

But I saw it for the first time here in Toronto. When it played in Venice, my heart was beating so hard I couldn’t hear it and Michael was sitting to my left and he hadn’t seen it before. It was just too much. So my first experience was in Toronto two days ago. Film is like a painting. You can step back from the canvas and you can look at it. Sometimes you can be the painter and the viewer too. Just because I made it doesn’t mean I can’t step back from it and look it too. Art has its own life. So I stepped back when I was in the audience, and I was kind of rattled by it. And when I came on stage after I was a bit nervous and shaky. Not because I was talking in front of hundreds of people but because of the effect the movie had had on me. You sit with a movie for months and months when you shoot it and edit it. But this was the first time I’d actually saw it. And it had an effect. I was shaken.

And now Fox Searchlight has bought it and audiences all over are going to get a chance to feel that same way.

I’m grateful Fox wants to release the movie. I mean, it just shows you that there is an audience for serious movies, and I think audiences deserve this cinema. We have to keep cinema alive. It’s very important to me. It’s not just superheroes and romantic comedies. We need a space for serious film. So I’m just so grateful.

And you’re getting final cut?

Absolutely, completely, absolutely.

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Post by Admin on Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:11 pm

SPOTTED: Steve McQueen at the Spoke Club

Another tip from the Spoke Club’s cultural curator: Steve McQueen, director of the Michael Fassbender/Carey Mulligan pic Shame, dined at the King West club with TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey last night.

Find this story on our Star Spotting Map, where we plot the locations of celebrities spotted around Toronto.

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Post by Admin on Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:58 pm

Toronto 2011: 'Shame' director surprised by controversy
September 13, 2011 | 4:42 pm

Even though this year's award season is just getting going, "Shame," starring Michael Fassbender, has already caused a stir. The movie's frank sexual content has prompted spirited debate among audiences, and the film prompted at least one woman to faint (at the Toronto Film Festival premiere, though apparently because of a moment of on-screen violence, not a sex scene).

But ask director Steve McQueen what he thinks of the fuss and he waves it away. "I didn't do this to be provocative," he said in a Toronto hotel room Tuesday. "They say Michael is naked. Half the people in the audience have what he has, and 99% percent of the audience has seen what he has. It's the most un-shocking thing you can think of. And yet someone picks up a gun and blows someone's head off and that's normal."

He added, "What I want to do in cinema is hold up a mirror to how people are."

In "Shame," Fassbender portrays Brandon, a good-looking but lonely man with a propensity for hard-core Internet porn, public sexual encounters with strangers and various forms of X-rated kinkiness. Since the film screened at Toronto, festival-goers have been debating just how sympathetic his character is, and what McQueen was hinting at in some of the more suggestive scenes. (Brendan's murky relationship with his sister, played by Carey Mulligan, is a particular point of debate.)

With what he calls the "prevalence" of sex in both the film and in the culture at large, McQueen said he believed "Shame" had a certain timeliness. "The movie is so now. But it still could have been anything -- it could have been gambling and it could have been an alcohol addiction."

For all its explicit content, “Shame” is far from an exploitation piece. The BAFTA-winning McQueen is prone to long takes and longer silences, and puts meticulous effort into composing each shot, which is no doubt part of the reason audiences are discussing it as intensely as they are.

Of the many bold flourishes in his film, McQueen said the silences were of particular importance to him. "It tells so much more than some ridiculous conversation," he said. "People talk all the time and nobody says anything. You can say a lot more with silence."

-- Steven Zeitchik in Toronto

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Post by Admin on Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:27 pm

Steve McQueen Interview For ‘Shame’

‘Shame’ is the remarkable second collaboration between Michael Fassbender and ‘Hunger’ writer/director Steve McQueen. The film follows Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a thirty-something man, closed from emotional contact, lonely, unable to manage his sex life and moving towards self-destruction. When his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment stirring memories of their shared painful past, Brandon’s insular life spirals out of control. ‘Shame’ is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us. The likes of Carey Mulligan, Nicole Beharie and James Badge Dale co-star. ‘Shame’ is scheduled to be released late 2011 in the US, and January 13th in the UK. Check out what Steve McQueen had to say about the film below.

‘Shame,’ much like ‘Hunger,’ warrants participation from the audience, you ask questions and are involved…

Steve McQueen: I want to earn the audiences trust, you really want people to trust you as a filmmaker. When people sit down to watch a movie, they’re kind of sceptical anyway, but then once you gain their trust they are open to what you will offer them. I always hope they come away with an experience where they feel involved, they feel a part of it. One of the aspects of that was the back-story of Brandon and Sissy, not having it spelled out exactly what happened to them. The reason why I did that, I think, was that I wanted to make it…not mysterious, but actually familiar, to everyone in the audience. That they would know, or have an idea of what possibly was the problem in the past. By not actually spelling it out, in some ways the audience are involved in what possibly it could be.

This film is very political, different to ‘Hunger,’ but political in a different way – the sexual politics.

Steve McQueen: You’re quite correct, the sexual politics. I think how a sex addict as such, or a person who has an affliction to this disease as such – pornography, the internet, the access of pornographic images, the access to sexual content is quite prevalent, it’s everywhere. I think that was the sort of starting point to explore someone who has this affliction. In my day pornography was on the top-shelf of a newsagent, it was a far away thing. Now the access to it is much more prevalent, and therefore it has an influence to the amount of activity to a sex addicts state….if that many makes any sense.

It’s societal and political…

Steve McQueen: Yes, politics as well because of the sexualisation of images to sell anything, it’s prevalent all around us. But it’s done in a way, a very commercial way, as pornography is, you pay to go online, it’s active in our everyday. If you are aware of it or not, its prevalent, it’s very very active. And of course to navigate your way through this world is difficult. I think everyone’s involved.

What is the collaborative experience like with Michael Fassbender?

Steve McQueen: It’s a little bit like Jazz in a way, you write the music, the melody, the harmony, and then within that piece of music you can improvise. There’s a roof, there’s a ceiling, certain notes can play within that space. You know, I don’t hire robots, I hire actors, just like great players – and of course Michael Fassbender is a great great player. So you write the song and then there’s chance for him to improvise, and in that frame he improvises. There’s many great examples, my favourite example is a very simple example you see in the film, when Michael is standing outside the elevator – it’s a shot being used for the press image, he presses the button for the elevator, he was meant to get into the elevator, but he presses the button of the elevator, and he looks at the elevator, the elevator door closes, then he went back and sat down. That was beautiful because as a brother, in the scene, not wanting to confront the situation of what could be going on upstairs with his boss, it was beautiful. A perfect example of you writing the music, then the person improvises and does his thing. It was much more beautiful than him going into the elevator, it was wonderful. A genius moment, simple, but that’s what it’s about.

Look out for a more in-depth interview with Steve McQueen closer to the films release date.

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Post by Admin on Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:39 pm


- Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen is one of the greatest directors, artist or whatever you want to call him of his generation. He won the Turner Prize in 1999 pipping Tracey Emin to the post and directed the critically acclaimed ‘Hunger’ in 2008 depicting the real life hunger strike of IRA member Bobby Sands. Now he’s made his way back to the big screen with Shame. Centered around a sex addict living in New York who’s life is increasingly falling apart.

He’s probably one of my main sources of inspiration when it comes to doing loads of stuff really well. I transcribed this interview (for my own amusement) by Mark Kermode on the Culture Show. Enjoy.


What is it about the subject of sex addiction that intrigues you? Because during the film as his addiction becomes more and more rampant he becomes more alienated. Although he says himself “that’s an alienation I’m completely happy with”

What fascinated me about it was the fact that this addiction [in some ways] you need someone to facilitate it [not all the time of course]. But I just love the idea of that drama with two people, one wanting something off the other person. And that so called control and also the same time it was about the struggle and not knowing you had a problem in the first place. When I first heard about sex addiction I found it quite funny of course, I laughed. Then you realize this person similar to an alcoholic, in order to get through the day needs two bottles of vodka. Similar to Brandon, he can’t do anything without reliving himself how many times a day. That’s kind of sad, it ceases to become funny.

I think to fall in love with someone is pretty brave. That person could break your heart. I think for him somewhere along the line he didn’t want that to happen or the possibility of being vulnerable.

Many of the scenes involve a degree of nakedness, physical nakedness and emotional nakedness. Tell me how difficult that may or may not be to work with a cast. One imagines acting without your clothes on not too comfortable?

No, but then they’re not very good actors are they. If Michael was walking around with a bazooka and he showed an AK-47 no one would say anything, but its one of those strange things where the bizarre is normal and the normal is bizarre. He’s an actor and we have to get to the emotional depth of the character. And also this isn’t 1951, a lot of people don’t wear pajamas, they get up in the morning and they’re naked. They’re up, they’re calm and they’re comfortable, end of story.

There have been comparisons made between Michael Fassbender and Marlon Brando in terms of physical performance. I think people now view Fassbender as arguably one of the greatest screen actors of his generation. Do you see any connection between their acting styles?

Yes I do. He’s a man, he’s a man’s man, he’s bold and he’s physical. But there’s a certain fragility in him which is so beautiful. That I think you can project yourself [as an audience member] onto him and see yourself. He can bring you in; he doesn’t push you away he brings in you in, he’s not afraid to show his vulnerability, which is beautiful.

Tell me about Brando’s relationship with Sissy. There’s a key conversation with Brand and Sissy at one point where she says “we’re not bad people but we come from a bad place” – one of the things I admire about the film is you’re explicit as to what that bad place is. Although it seemed to me the film had certain suggestions as to what it might be. Tell me what that line meant?

I wanted to make their past familiar rather than mysterious. But I didn’t want it to be a let out for what Brando does in the movie. It’s their past. When we meet people in our lives we know nothing about them other then what they present. And sometimes there’s tales of the past in the present when you’re with them. Similar situation arises in the film when Carey Mulligan sings ‘New York, New York’ to Brandon. It’s the only time when he has to listen to Sissy, he can’t move, he can’t escape, he’s forced to sit there and listen, he has to.

In terms of where you go from here, two features films both critically well received, do you see feature film making as the primary part of your future career or do you still see yourself as a visual artist that happens to work in film?

No, no I don’t want people to allow me to have to choose. I don’t want that, I want to do what I want to do. Next time I might want to dance [laughs]. It’s not even a joke, I feel as an artist or as a person who wants to do stuff, you should just do stuff, whatever that stuff is. There’s no real barrier or dividing line between what you can and can’t do. I just don’t see it.

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Post by Admin on Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:14 pm

THR's Directors Roundtable: How to Fire People, Who to Steal From, and Amy Pascal's Secret Advice
2:40 PM PST 11/16/2011 by Matthew Belloni , Stephen Galloway

Joe Pugliese
Six auteurs reveal personal war stories and what makes a great movie in the second of THR's annual awards season series discussions.

This story originally appeared in the Nov. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

"All of our films are quiet films," Jason Reitman noted about halfway through The Hollywood Reporter's annual gathering of six leading filmmakers. "It's kind of a quiet year."

Reitman is right. Many of the films contending in the season's major awards categories are understated character pieces featuring long periods of silence. One movie, French director Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, contains virtually no dialogue at all.

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes of THR's Actress Roundtable 2011

By contrast, the filmmakers behind those contenders have no trouble speaking their minds. This especially opinionated group -- Hazanavicius, 44, Steve McQueen, 42 (Shame), Bennett Miller, 44 (Moneyball), Mike Mills, 45 (Beginners), Alexander Payne, 50 (The Descendants) and Reitman, 34 (Young Adult) -- wasn't afraid to disagree while opening up about their challenges and influences.

The hourlong roundtable took place Oct. 28 at Siren Studios in Hollywood.

The Hollywood Reporter: There are a lot of good directors. What makes a great director?

Alexander Payne: The luck that the work you do happens to hit the zeitgeist. A director can have a career spanning decades, but if he or she is lucky, there's about a 10-year period where you're given a chance to touch the zeitgeist. You can be doing very good and honest work before then and after then, and one of those periods may return, too. Robert Altman had it in the '70s, and then he kind of went underground. He never stopped working, and then he reemerged again for a final stretch run. Woody Allen kept doing very good and honest work -- excellent work in the '70s, of course, and then he kept chipping away with hits and misses. Now, he's kind of having a late-career resurgence.

PHOTOS: 'The Descendants' Premiere Red Carpet Arrivals

Bennett Miller: The directors I'm most impressed with have some kind of perspective. If it's Hitchcock or Kubrick or Scorsese or maybe an Alexander Payne, you watch those films and you feel like you're inside their head, their frames feel conscious.

THR: How does the writer's point of view fit into that?

Miller: Writers do not matter. (Laughter.) No, it's the same.

THR: Bennett, you went from directing a small film, Capote, to a big studio film, Moneyball. How much was your perspective valued and how much did the studio mettle?

Miller: I probably shouldn't say this, but in one of the early conversations I had with the studio folks, I argued a lot. And then I got a call from [Sony Pictures co-chairman] Amy Pascal, who said, "Look, Bennett, you're making the movie. Everybody knows that the studio, at best, can exercise 7 percent of influence over the thing, but you need to be more generous in these meetings -- and let's just never talk about this again and never tell anybody about the 7 percent." (Laughter.) So there's your answer.

PHOTOS: Governors Awards 2011: Academy Honors Oprah, James Earl Jones, Dick Smith

Jason Reitman: I grew up in a directing family, and as I've become a working director, I've gotten the opportunity to meet a lot of directors. I always figured there'd be a piece of recognizable DNA that I'd be like, "Oh, there's that trait that I'm noticing," [but] that does not exist at all. I've met great directors who are incredibly shy, I've met directors who are arrogant, terrified of confrontation, directors who truly thrive on confrontation as a part of their process. Some directors are horrible with actors. There are tons of stories of directors who don't understand actors as human beings and yet they still get great performances.

Payne: How do you explain that? I don't know whom you're referring to, but one does notice that the directors we value for being great visual stylists also happen to get some of the best performances. One thinks of Kubrick.

THR: Is that true? Barry Lyndon is one of my favorite films, but Ryan O'Neal is so horrendously miscast.

Payne: We disagree there. I think he's perfectly cast.

Steve McQueen: I disagree completely. Ryan O'Neal -- he's brilliant, he's Barry Lyndon, he's beautiful, he's lyrical. You project yourself onto him, you are Barry Lyndon.

Reitman: The fact that he doesn't know what he's doing makes it actually work. His naivete adds to the role.

Payne: Some directors have the good gut but not the wherewithal to explain it. William Wyler was famous for that. Made people do tons and tons of takes and said, "I don't know, just do it better," but he had the compass and he directed more actors to Oscar-winning performances than any other director.

McQueen: Words can only go so far, you have to trust the director, end of story.

THR: Steve, you have some extraordinarily difficult themes in Shame, plus full nudity. How do you get the trust of the actors to do that?

McQueen They're actors. They use their bodies to act, like dancers. That's what they have to do. If I was making the movie in 1951 as opposed to 2011, [Michael Fassbender's character would] be wearing pajamas, but a lot of people don't wear pajamas, so he walks around in the apartment naked, drinks a glass of water, goes to the bathroom, has a shower. It's so obvious. It's not a shocker, is it?

THR: Well, the film is quite shocking, isn't it?

McQueen: Not particularly. We all have sex, we all see what Michael and Carey [Mulligan] have, as far as being naked. Maybe because it's onscreen it's shocking, but that's maybe because it hasn't been portrayed on screen. What's unfamiliar, at least to me, is someone with a gun shooting someone in the head. I think we made a film that was responsible. I don't care -- NC-17? Brilliant! Fantastic! Bring it on! I take full responsibility for it. I think most violent films are not responsible, they are completely opposite of responsible. Film should reflect real life. Otherwise, what's the point? Just make superhero movies all the time.

THR: So what bothers you on the screen?

McQueen: A crappy movie.

THR: Mike, you had a particularly tough time getting Beginners off the ground. Is that because part of the story is autobiographical?

Mike Mills: It took me three-and-a-half or four years to get financing. I got to hear "no" in every language. Finally I got the nerve to ask Ewan [McGregor to star] and lo and behold, he's the coolest guy, totally easy to talk to. He did it for scale and becomes a great friend.

THR: Like the Christopher Plummer character, your dad announced that he was gay at 75. How did you take that?

Mills: I had some information as an 18-year-old that maybe my dad was gay, but my parents were married for 44 years. My dad was born in 1925, wore a suit and tie everyday, he voted for Reagan, he didn't seem like a gay guy, and I have many gay friends. So when he came out, that was great. If anything, it made him much more interesting, and it explained a whole hell of a lot. What was weird was that my dad was a horny 75-year-old. But Christopher is not my dad, films aren't reality at all, even when you're trying to document something very concrete and small that did happen.

Michel Hazanavicius: I don't try to ape reality, but there's something about life, even if it's a metaphor or if it's a completely invented story, you try to speak of life and of reality.

THR: How did the idea for The Artist come about?

Hazanavicius: The first attraction was for the [silent movie] format, not for the story itself. When you were talking about Ryan O'Neal, you said less is more. This is exactly the principle of a silent movie. As an audience, that [format] makes the movie really close to you because it's your own world, it's your own dialogue, it's your own voices. I believe that there are a lot of directors who have this fantasy to make a silent movie.

Payne: I want to kill you because you beat me to it.

THR: Mike, you're married to filmmaker Miranda July. How much does she influence your work?

Mills: We're married and we're directors, but we never talk about it. I love her because she's not work and she's not all this stuff. Of course, I like her work and we like each other's, but it's different; we go on our own path.

THR: Who influences you most?

Payne: What does that mean to have an influence? Every time I'm asked that question, I'm nonplussed. Nothing and everything.

THR: For instance, Bob Zemeckis says that before he makes a film, he watches The Godfather. (Laughter.) Why do you laugh?

Reitman: Two things. One: watching The Godfather makes me not want to make movies. Why would I possibly want to make movies after watching something as brilliant as that? And for me, the biggest influences aren't movies that I see, it's life experiences -- the girl who wouldn't go on a date with me when I was a teen -- it's that s$#! that finds its way in and influences your daily decisions.

Mills: I am definitely writing letters to lots of directors in my mind when I'm making a film. I'm chasing Woody Allen and Godard and Milos Forman and all these people.

Reitman: Maybe that's the better question: Who are you chasing?

THR: OK, who are you chasing?

Reitman: Alexander.

Payne: Don't burden me with that.

McQueen: I'm just trying to do as much as I can before I fall down.

Hazanavicius: Billy Wilder is my favorite. But you can't think, "What would he do?" You're the only one who has the answers.

Payne: Except I would say that the films we've seen and loved operate as a vague mental spice rack for a mood.

Hazanavicius: I steal things, I really do. It's not that kind of "influence."

Payne: Concretely?

Hazanavicius: Concretely, yes. I have a breakfast sequence [in The Artist], it's exactly the Citizen Kane breakfast sequence. Exactly the same.

Payne: What the hell -- why not? Citizen Ruth is trying to be Ace in the Hole, and a bit of Viridiana, and it fails. Election is made by a guy who was drunkenly in love with Casino, and I still am. About Schmidt is chasing Ikiru and Wild Strawberries and The Graduate. Sideways is trying to be an early '60s Italian comedy, like Il Sorpasso, but with the mood of a '70s American film.

Mills: That spice rack -- it's very conscious, it's not a secret and everybody does it.

THR: What's the best and the worst moment you've had as directors?

Payne: I was shooting a rear-screen projection moment for Election where Matthew Broderick is pretending he's Marcello Mastroianni in a Ferrari on the Italian coast and I laughed very hard. It was fun making myself laugh.

Mills: Premiering your movie -- I don't know if it's the worst moment, [but] it's the most uncomfortable. My film premiered at Toronto and the Elgin Theater is this gorgeous, three-story theater. I was just walking up to the top, back down to the bottom, and then finally I just left because I really couldn't stand it anymore.

Reitman: As someone that was in the Elgin that night, that was a pretty spectacular screening.

Mills: You're very nice.

McQueen: My worst moment was firing a crewmember. It was one of those situations where that person was there for all of the wrong reasons.

Reitman: I had to fire an 8-year-old girl once on a Wal-Mart commercial. She was kind of a bad influence on the other kids.

Payne: I fired an actor, just once. This actor was being disobedient in rehearsal the week before shooting, and so the day before shooting we made this actor go away and I hired someone off a tape who was wonderful.

THR: How was he or she being disobedient?

Payne: Arguing with me. It was a young person arguing over the stupidest things. I'm not there to argue with people and I'm not there to be a psychiatrist or a father figure. I'm there to make a film, and I invite collaboration but not argument.

Reitman: I actually think psychiatrist is a bit of the job.

THR: Many of you have remained in the independent film world by choice. Steve, would you ever take a big studio movie?

McQueen: If I get final cut, yeah, why not? I want to work with people, I don't necessarily want to work for people. But final cut is not a sort of dictatorial position, it's actually a conversation, being collaborative with the people who are providing the money to make the movie.

Payne: I would not give up final cut, but my next film will be in black and white for theatrical, DVD and streaming, and I am taking DGA scale plus 15 [percent] for this film. It's tentatively called Nebraska. It's just a little comedy.

THR: Why black and white?

Payne: Because it would be so cool.

THR: Did you go to film school?

McQueen: Went there for three months and hated it at NYU. Film school was like work; it wasn't like art.

Miller: I was at NYU for a bit. I found myself contracting.

McQueen: For some people, it works. But I get the impression for us, you need freedom and you're put in this space where you can't fit.

Payne: I loved film school [at UCLA]. I had a great time. I had one of those dream scenarios where I showed my [student] film and the next day I had 40 calls from agents and producers and studio people, and within a month, I had an agent and a writing-directing deal at a studio.

THR: You're all men, and only one of you, Steve, is a minority -- why is that?

McQueen: I must be in America.

Mills: Yeah, why isn't there a woman here? My wife could be sitting here.

THR: Name a female director who made a major film this year.

Mills: Miranda July [The Future].

Payne: Lynne Ramsay [We Need to Talk About Kevin], Andrea Arnold [Wuthering Heights].

THR: OK, but you're talking about small films that have been little seen in America.

McQueen: I mean, the question could be different. The question could be, "Why aren't there more black directors?" because there are obviously more women directors than black directors.

THR: So what's the answer?

McQueen: I have no idea. I mean, it's opportunity, isn't it? That's what it's about -- opportunity. And access, because some people just give up. I'm always astonished by American filmmakers, particularly living in certain areas, when they never cast one black person, or have never put them in a lead in the movie. I'm astonished. It's shameful. How do you live in New York and not cast a black actor or a Latino actor? It's shameful. It's unbelievable.

Reitman: Not stepping into that.

Miller: I don't know.

THR: We look back at the late '30s, the '70s in America, New Wave in France, those were great eras in film. What about now?

Payne If you look at certain countries, you can say, "Well, they're having a good era." Like, Romania has been having a good era for the last six or seven years. Maybe it's starting to wind down, I don't know. Korea, Taiwan, Iran comes and goes, and they have a spectacular film this year in A Separation. So if you look by country, I don't think U.S. commercial filmmaking is having a great period, and hasn't had a truly great period since about 1980. That's my opinion.


The Hollywood Reporter continues its annual series of exclusive discussions among the year's most compelling film talents. As awards season unfolds, look for upcoming roundtables with actors, writers, producers and animation filmmakers, and go to The Reporter's awards-season blog The Race at to watch videos of the full discussions.

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Post by Admin on Fri Nov 25, 2011 8:42 pm

Director Steve McQueen talks about the challenges of making Shame, the pressure of following up Hunger and why he doesn’t want a ‘career’

London-born Steve McQueen’s first film, Hunger, about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, was awarded the Camera d’Or in Cannes, as well as a BIFA and BAFTA for most promising newcomer. A man of diverse talents, he was awarded the Turner Prize in 1999 for three visual art works, including Deadpan and Prey, which focused on a tape recorder playing a tap dance.

His second feature, Shame, shows no signs of an artistic lull as it has been nominated for 7 British Independent Film Awards, including best director and best film. Written by acclaimed screenwriter Abi Morgan, the story focuses on the thirtysomething high-flying New-Yorker, Brandon (Michael Fassbender). A successful executive with an overwhelming sex drive that he satisfies in whatever way he can. When his younger sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay, his routine is further disrupted, causing Brandon to implode.

Where did you grow up? And what was your artistic background? Did you see a lot of films or theatre?

I grew up in Ealing. Books and British TV. It was on all the time. It was like a fireplace. It was how I was educated – wildlife programmes, documentary programmes, bang bang bang. Play for Today. Everything. British TV, when I grew up, was a library.

Did you always want to make films, even when you were primarily a visual artist?

When I was in art school, I wanted to be in film school. When I was in film school, I wanted to be in art school. I was back and forth, really. I was in NYU in 1993 and I hated it. I only could afford to go because I got a scholarship and my uncle lived in Brooklyn. But after three months I left. I came back to England and did my own thing. If I had gone to film school, maybe my language would’ve been tainted. Who knows? I was more interested in art because it was much more difficult.

Did you feel any pressure after Hunger to follow it up?

No. I didn’t feel any pressure. For me, this is my first film. Every film will be my first film. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m Mr Magoo, bumping into things! I always wanted to be a little bit naïve. I’m an amateur. I always want to be an amateur. I’m not interested in being a filmmaker.

So you don’t want a career, as such?

Career – I don’t know what that is. If somebody asks me to do another movie, then I’ll do one. But what I mean by amateur is to just have a freedom. Not be constrained by certain ways or techniques of doing things. But to have the opportunity to be free.

There are certain scenes – like the one in the night club with Sissy and Brandon – where little is going on yet much is happening under the surface. How much do you try and put that into words at script stage?

I think it’s more about atmosphere. I think one has to trust a certain kind of atmosphere. It’s difficult to write about. The ambience, the feeling, the emotion has to come through performance, through the camera, through trust. That particular performance by Carey…I wanted to make ‘New York, New York’ into a blues number. It’s not Liza Minnelli or Frank Sinatra. It’s not a triumphant song. It’s a really sad song. I thought, ‘This could be one of those times where Brandon is confronted with Sissy, and she can have a direct communication with him, and he can’t get out.’ He’s taken someone to the club, he’s in a situation where he can’t leave, he’s basically trapped, so he has to listen. He’s confronted with his past, through his sister’s performance. And you just have to trust things like that. It can’t happen in novels or plays, It can only happen in cinema. That’s cinema, and you have to trust what the possibilities can be. Sometimes it’s scary, but you just have to have faith in cinema.

Did you think much about Brandon and Sissy’s backstory? It didn’t seem like they’d had a very happy childhood…

What we wanted to make a situation that was familiar rather than mysterious. When we all go to the cinema, we bring our history, our luggage, our baggage, so we have some kind of idea of what possibly could of happened. I didn’t want to give you a long yarn about this is what happened to Sissy, this is what happened to Brandon. We all have an understanding of what possibly could have happened. And there are tells in the film, where the past comes into the present, and you can have an idea of that. Often when you meet someone brand new in your life, you have no idea who that person is. You just meet that person, and then from your relationship with that person, you get an idea of possibly who or what that person is. So I want people to bring their own history to the cinema at that point, in order to make it much more familiar.

What were the challenges you had to face on this? Were they different being a second-time director?

This is a continuation of Hunger really. It’s one film as far as I’m concerned. It’s just a case of trying things out, failing and trying them again and hopefully they work. Often what people think doesn’t work actually does. So it’s a situation of experimenting, collaborating with great people and getting it done. Just trying to do something which has some kind of meaning. It’s very simple really.

Are you aware of any artistic influences when you are directing?

When I’m looking through a lens for a shot or a scene, I’m not thinking about Goya or Tarkovsky, I’m thinking ‘What’s the best thing I can do in this present mood?’ Certain things are coincidence. But it’s different textures, different aesthetic, and a different feel with film, celluloid, compared to painting. So I’m not thinking of painting at all. I’m just thinking about the actual content, the story, the narrative. Film will take care of itself. You’ve got to focus on what you’re looking at, and how you portray that in the right way. The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard about that, as far as images and content are concerned, was from a very good friend of mine, Robbie Müller, who used to work with Wim Wenders, and Jim Jarmusch and Lars von Trier. He said ‘A camera move should be like a cat jumping onto a table; effortless. That’s it. That’s enough.’ So the content actually has to tell you what it wants. The form is there to give it some sort of reality.

What about using long takes, where does that come from?

It comes from the actor and the environment. You write something, and then you go to the locations, and the locations are not what you thought they were in your mind’s eye. So you have to adapt to the environment and you have to adapt to the actor and what they want, and their needs. There was one great time, I remember, with Michael. We were shooting quite fast and he got quite angry with us. Like ‘Steve, what is this? You’re putting me in this shot. I don’t want to do that!’ That was the biggest wake up call. It was very early on in the filming. So I thought, ‘Let’s see how he moves, let’s see what his ritual is, let’s move the camera.’ Again, it’s one of those things about the environment and the actor. Of course, you need to do those things in that frame that you need, but it’s almost like a dance in a way. How do you dance with your partner?

Why did you pick New York for the setting? Is it hell on Earth?

No, I love New York. Sometimes, starting points are to do with the last thing you did. So with Hunger, being in a prison cell in Northern Ireland, what happens if you turn it on its head? You have a place of excess and access. You have a place of choice, multiple choices and freedom, compared to being in a prison cell. So I like the idea of that environment. Then you put Brandon in the situation, who is not thinking about other people, just himself, then that’s interesting. It’s the total opposite to the previous situation. Then to feed this craving of sex, I think it’s the best place for this character. You can order a prostitute? What kind? There are thousands of choices. For Brandon, it’s a Mecca. He orders take-out food, take-in prostitutes…you don’t have to communicate with anyone. That’s the loneliness of New York. For a lot of people it can be very lonely and isolating. No-one cooks – everyone eats out or takes in.

Did you sense that Michael was finding the shoot tough?

Yes. Yes. But we’re here to support and push. That’s my job. To maintain and be the scaffolding, to prop him up. He went deep. He went very deep. What you see on screen for example, there is a beautiful bit on screen where Michael is waiting for the elevator, the doors open, he looks at the elevator, they close again and he sits down. That was improvised. I’m upstairs, and looking at him, and he’s not getting in the elevator. I’m thinking ‘What’s the matter with him?’ But it’s beautiful. He’s so in there. That’s genius. You can’t make that up. It’s a small detail but it adds so much. I have to stay in the mode too. That’s why you need a good crew too. There’s no way any director could stay focused for twelve hours a day. You need a good DP [director of photography] and a good producer.

One of the most surprising moments is when he goes to the gay club…

It’s sex. He gets beaten up. He’s provoking the guy, because he hates himself and wants to get beaten up. Then he tries to get in the club, but he can’t, and across the street there’s a gay bar. Let’s go, let’s go have some sex. Sex isn’t gay or straight – he wants sex. He goes there and gets what he wants.

Shame is released in the UK and Ireland on 13 January For more information visit” or follow @shamefilm on twitter.

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Post by Admin on Sun Nov 27, 2011 8:26 pm

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The Artistry Of Shame, By Steve McQueen

Filmmaker Steve McQueen, director of "Shame", which opens in New York, L.A., San Francisco and other select cities on December 2. Omar P.L. Moore

by Omar P.L. Moore/ Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"I WISH MY ROOM WAS LIKE THIS," jokes Steve McQueen as he walks into a suite in a swanky hotel in San Francisco. The British filmmaker strides to a comfortable sofa seat and expresses mild surprise that someone has asked how his daughter is doing.

"Have we met?", Mr. McQueen says quietly and politely.

It is this British reserve and manners of the London-born and bred filmmaker that is the first thing one notices, more so than his sturdy bulldozer physique. Mr. McQueen is a serious man but as you speak to him you glimpse a humble, sincere soul who possesses gentle humor and a genuine curiosity about people and the world they inhabit.

Mr. McQueen, who splits time between Amsterdam, where his wife and two children are based, and London, has probably answered two thousand questions so far about his new film "Shame", which opens in select U.S. cities (San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are among them) on December 2.

The new drama is Mr. McQueen's second feature film. ("Hunger", the 2008 film about the 1981 hunger strike lead by Irish Republican Army activist Bobby Sands, was his first.)

Mr. McQueen is known for the visceral language in his films, language that operates both as subtext and surface. A deeper emotional truth is borne out of the naked bodies and carnal desecration of his characters in "Hunger" and "Shame", as well as in such earlier work in such short films like "Bear" (1993), a black and white film in which two naked men stare at each other several different times without saying a word. There's anger, tension, fear, flirtation, humor -- or all of the above, between the men -- the kind of emotional ambiguity that makes the director's work palpable and real. Mr. McQueen is one of the naked men in "Bear".

Michael Fassbender has been naked before the camera in both of Mr. McQueen's feature films. The German-born Irish actor has said many times that Mr. McQueen "changed his life" with "Hunger" when he casted the then-unknown actor as Bobby Sands, in a performance that would gain heavy critical acclaim. Mr. Fassbender has recently said that he would work with Mr. McQueen script unseen, "any time, anywhere."

With just over two weeks until its U.S. theatrical debut ("Shame" played at Telluride in Colorado, in Toronto at its annual film festival and in Venice, where Mr. Fassbender won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor) Mr. McQueen's latest film has already struck a chord with many audiences at pre-release screenings in the U.S. Much of the publicity surrounding "Shame" is in its stylish, unblinking look at the descent of a lost soul wallowing in shame, guilt and self-destructive behavior. Some people are admittedly fascinated with Mr. Fassbender. Others are curious about Mr. McQueen, whom, to some in the U.S., is conflated by, or with, his namesake, the late iconic actor. At a film festival in Northern California last month, one patron, after watching "Shame" was heard saying, "I thought there was only one Steve McQueen!"

Only one Steve McQueen could have directed "Shame", an intense film that harnesses urgency, tragedy and raw power. At a recent critics' screening of the film in San Francisco, the audience was completely silent during a number of scenes, particularly in the film's second half. "Shame" resonates, and even for the most nonplussed viewer it will be an experience they will think about beyond the film's closing credits, if not talk about extensively thereafter.

Set in New York City and shot there in a mere 25 days earlier this year, "Shame", written by Mr. McQueen and Abi Morgan, explores a lonely but successful man's sex addiction and intimacy phobia. Brandon Sullivan (Mr. Fassbender) is consumed by his hunger for sex. He just cannot get romantically close to a woman.

Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan in "Shame", Steve McQueen's new drama opening on December 2. Fox Searchlight

"Brandon is this person who is living in this cosmopolitan, this mecca of a city -- New York. Access, excess any time of the day. Within that sort of holiday of freedom -- western freedom at least -- this is a guy who has a great job, is quite attractive, has a great apartment. But what he does, he limits himself through his activities of sex. And those kind of situations are very interesting to me because it's often about what we do physically more than what we say verbally. I think -- as often is the case these days -- is when we speak it's not necessarily what we mean or what we actually feel, it's just to sort of make people feel comfortable or it's just to, you know, to get through a day," Mr. McQueen, 42, said, speaking in a soft but hurried cadence.

"What's really happening is through impulse and instinct and ritual. And that's what I wanted to cover with Brandon," the director says, proceeding to go into some detail about what Brandon does in the film's opening minutes.

"Shame" stars two actresses with crucial roles in the story; Carey Mulligan, who plays Sissy, Brandon's drifter sister who drops in unannounced to her brother's West 31st Street Manhattan apartment, and Nicole Beharie, who plays Marianne, a work colleague of Brandon's. Both characters are indispensible in helping to round out the arc of Brandon's character and his suffocating odyssey along the way. James Badge Dale plays David, Brandon's boss. (Mr. McQueen likens Mr. Dale to "a modern-day Jack Nicholson", and there's a scene in "Shame" in a bar that hits this nail on the head. In the past Mr. McQueen has also spoken of Liam Cunningham, who played the priest in "Hunger", in the same reverential way.)

There's lots of history between Sissy and Brandon, much of it conveyed in a look, or in body language or in just a few sharp, terse words and exchanges. In silences between Marianne and Brandon, a lot is being said.

"I'm interested in how we sort of work things out through our own being. What we have is two arms and two legs and it's interesting how we try to break the circle sometimes."

The circle that is the relationship between Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender is unbroken. If the term "that special relationship" is overused, then so be it, for it aptly describes the close relationship they have on and off screen. They are like brothers. When Mr. McQueen is told this he doesn't object. The two of them are happy in each others' company. One can merely look at photos of them together to confirm this. Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio have a comfort zone. Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon. Sidney Lumet and Al Pacino. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington. Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz.

"I'm extraordinarily grateful for this sort of journey," said Mr. McQueen. "You know, it's like falling in love in a kind of strange way. I mean, you don't know when it's going to come. When it comes what you do is you hold on to it, and you do when you least expect it," the director said of his relationship with Mr. Fassbender.

"And what I mean by that is it's a relationship one has to work on because it's one of those situations where we have no second hand. Absolutely. But at the same time we respect each other. And I don't take him for granted. If I've got a script and I go to Michael for a script, it has to be a damn good script. It's one of those things that like any relationship you have to maintain it. You can't sort of rest on your laurels."

Mr. Fassbender, 34, is the talk of the movie world these days. There's every likelihood he will receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination in January for his work as Brandon in "Shame". He has also starred in three other films in 2011 ("Jane Eyre", "X-Men: First Class" and the forthcoming "A Dangerous Method", directed by David Cronenberg.) It will be a busy 2012 for Mr. Fassbender, who will star in a film that marks fellow Irish actor Brendan Gleeson's directing debut. He will also star in Jim Jarmusch's next film and appear on the big screen as an android in Ridley Scott's highly anticipated 3-D drama "Prometheus".

From Mr. McQueen's perspective, in his close friend Mr. Fassbender there's something deeper that evolves on the big screen in his work.

"But also what Michael does is something very different. I think he's . . . it's not just a commitment -- and people use the word 'bravery' -- he's not brave in a way. What he is is -- he is an artist. That's what artists do. There's a difference between an actor and an artist."

Next summer the director and actor will team up a third time for Mr. McQueen's next feature film, "12 Years A Slave", based on the true story of Solomon Northrup, a man who was kidnapped in New York City in the early 1800s and sold into slavery in the American South and enslaved there for 12 years. Chiwetel Ejiofor will star in the title role, and Brad Pitt will also star and produce the film. "12 Years A Slave" is expected to be released theatrically in the U.S. in 2013 or 2014.

* * *

"Shame" isn't about sex per se but rather the pervasiveness of sex, and the absence of love in the Internet age (online bullying, suicides, abductions) and a saturation of instant, quick-fix orgasmic highs.

"It's everywhere. It's all around us," remarks Mr. McQueen about sex, as he is reminded about one scene in "Shame" where an advertisement in the background is prominent enough to reinforce society's oversaturation of sex, sexuality and of "sex sells".

"There's just no escape. We're all taken by it. It's basically . . . how (do) we negotiate our way within this environment. I remember -- and I'm sure you remember -- when you were growing up in Britain, the nearest you got to pornography is sort of breaking your neck in a newsagent's looking to the top shelf. And now it's two clicks on your iPhone, your iPad or your computer at home. Pornography has never been as prolific as now. So how do we navigate our way in this world?"

Mr. McQueen's question hangs in the air.

Carey Mulligan as Sissy in Steve McQueen's drama "Shame". Fox Searchlight

A West Londoner, Mr. McQueen was educated at Hammersmith and West London College, with an A level in art. He did further studies in art, design and fine art at Chelsea College of Art and Design and at Goldsmiths College, and had a brief stint at New York University's Tisch School Of the Arts. A pure artist, Mr. McQueen and several other prominent British artists had once been the center of a debate fueled mainly by the nation's press about British artists who were supposedly leaving or deserting the U.K. It was a furor that some, including Mr. McQueen, were puzzled by.

Steve McQueen is known in Britain and across Europe for his artwork and installation projects, which he has been doing for the better part of two decades. He's regarded as one of the best artists in the world today. Mr. McQueen is the 1999 recipient of the Turner Prize, a special award for artists under 50. His work has appeared in art galleries around the world.

Mr. McQueen is also a photographer and a sculptor, and was the official War Artist in Iraq on behalf of England. His 2007 art project Queen And Country won lots of praise. The project was a series of postage stamps with the faces of fallen British soldiers from the war in Iraq. Mr. McQueen has been awarded two honors by Queen Elizabeth II; the Officer Of The Order Of The British Empire (OBE), and this year, the Commander Of The Order Of The British Empire (CBE), an even higher honor, for his service and work in the visual arts.

The director, happily married with a son in addition to a daughter, is asked if he can relate to anything in "Shame" (recently nominated for seven British Independent Film Awards) on a sexual level.

"It's one of those things which I can't talk about personally but I can talk about it in general. I think that it strikes a core in men and it strikes a core in women too." Mr. McQueen adds that he is "a very moral person." He asks himself out loud whether he's ever been immoral, and for the second time during this interview a question the director asks dangles in the air.

Of "Shame"'s NC-17 rating (for some explicit sexual content) Mr. McQueen sees no problem whatsoever. "I just hope that people go and will be able to see it. I mean, I didn't even know what NC-17 was. It's fine, as long as people go to see it."

Hoping to gain maximum publicity (and they've already succeeded), Fox Searchlight Pictures, which is releasing "Shame" in the U.S., is wearing the Motion Picture Association Of America's NC-17 (formerly an X rating) for the film as a badge of honor.

Harry Escott's music score forms a memorable lament in "Shame", which is also punctuated by the piano of Glenn Gould and sounds of the 1980s including "Rapture" by Blondie. Joe Walker, who edited both "Shame" and "Hunger", is a musician, and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, with whom Mr. McQueen has worked for eleven years, also shot both of the director's feature films. Mr. McQueen said he couldn't be more pleased about what they and the rest of the crew brought to "Shame".

In "Hunger" and "Shame" there are long takes which have been a staple of Mr. McQueen's work.

"What I'm trying to do is put the audience in a situation in real time rather than film time. Because sometimes if a person's been uncomfortable -- maybe it's a bit sort of scary -- then all of a sudden you break through and you're there. It's just one of those things. Certain scenes need that kind of tension."

Mr. McQueen refers to one such scene in "Shame" between Ms. Beharie and Mr. Fassbender, one he dubs "the most erotic scene in the movie."

"It's the first time that Brandon is actually sharing, he's really giving . . . and of course when that collapses it's much more devastating."

"Shame" rated NC-17, opens in select U.S. cities including San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles on December 2. The film opens in the U.K. in January.

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Post by Admin on Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:49 pm

Oscars: Steve McQueen opens up about Internet sex, the NC-17 rating and the power of “Shame” – AWARDS ALLEY
By: Sean O'Connell

By Sean O’Connell It was the last film I managed to see at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

“Shame” reunites director Steve McQueen and his “Hunger” star Michael Fassbender for an intense study of a sex addict coping with his own unique hungers in the city that never sleeps. Fassbender’s performance earned him the Coppa Volpi prize for best actor at the Venice Film Festival, and Fox Searchlight – which acquired the film for distribution at TIFF – hopes to push “Shame” through the Oscar circuit.

I pray they are successful, for while the film’s NC-17 rating might frighten away potential audiences, those who see it will be rewarded with an honest, unflinching portrayal of sexual addiction in the Internet age. McQueen spoke with me at length about his devastating drama, which remains one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Here’s Steve McQueen on “Shame”: I apologize for starting with such an obvious question, but I’m genuinely curious about the source of your inspiration. What made you want to explore such a complicated character, a person we rarely get to see portrayed on screen?

Steve McQueen: It started kind of a while ago. There was a film that I had heard about [from the 1960s] that followed a guy who basically moves in with a family and sleeps with every single person in the family – the father, the mother, the daughter and the son. That was a story that really interested me, but went nowhere for a while. It planted a seed in my head a while back. Then I met [co-writer] Abi Morgan, and we had a conversation where we were talking at length. Previously I’d already spoken with Michael [Fassbender] about a rough idea that I was pretty sure I wanted to do. But I wasn’t sure what it was, just that it had to so with sex. There were things that Abi Morgan mentioned about the Internet and about pornography. And that was it. The alarm bells went off. Sometimes that idea can take three or four years to properly grow, but once I heard it, I thought, “That’s it. That’s the thing.” So I threw myself head first into it. Did the story of the guy sleeping with every member of the family strike you as odd?

In what way? I guess I’m wondering what it was in that story that you felt you could relate to?

Well, it’s sex, isn’t it? It’s communication. It’s the most intimate form of communication that you can have with another human being. I certainly was interested in that situation where someone could just do that, and what did it mean. But of course, this was a movie made in the 1960s. And that was just a starting point for me.

The ultimate idea was that of sexual addiction, because the situation was that in order for Brandon to satisfy his addiction, it’s all encompassing. It takes over your life. It’s like alcohol or drug addiction. The actual addiction dictates to you what it wants and what it needs, and you usually have no way of stopping it. It takes over your life, and I wanted to do something with that.

It’s very much a contemporary story that’s happening now, and it’s being enabled by the Internet. The majority of the use of the Internet is pornography, and this film is all about now, about being enabled. And sex appears to be the one thing that, no matter how much we may be exposed to it, we never actually become numb to it. You never reach a point of saturation, and it generally remains taboo.

Yes and no. I’m from Europe, so there’s a slight difference. I mean, I live in Amsterdam. But I do think that, as adults, it is very important to set up this discussion in our world. Would you ever revisit Brandon for another film?

No, I think it’s done. I think Brandon is Brandon. He either stepped off the train or he stayed on it, and that’s it. The movie continues, really. It goes somewhere else. You have a trusted collaborator in Michael Fassbender, but I’m curious what you saw in Carey Mulligan when casting.

She got a hold of the script. And I don’t know how! At the time, it was almost like trying to cast Scarlett O’Hara. We were looking for Sissy. So she got a hold of the script and we held a meeting, and it was just a strange thing because she was desperate to get the role. What was interesting about her desperation is that it reminded me very much of Sissy. She was very demanding! So I offered her the role on the spot. Did you choose “New York, New York” once you settled on the film’s location?

Of course, of course. That was one of those things where we hadn’t written that part of the script yet because we were still developing the story while we were in New York. And that song just felt like the right thing to do. When you read the lyrics, it’s a Blues. And the Sissy character … Brandon’s imploding and she’s exploding. He’s an introvert and she’s such an extrovert. I figured that she was a performer who needs to get things out. I figured Sissy was a singer, and the lyrics of that song are about a person who’s homeless and wants to make it in the big city but isn’t quite there yet. It’s not a triumphant song like Liza Minnelli or Frank Sinatra sing it. It’ the Blues. So I thought it would fit great.

I think it’s like Jazz. When you take a standard, you immediately want to turn it on its head. You’ll take “When the Saints Come Marching In” or even “Stardust Memory,” and then you do something else with it. It was very organic. It was natural. It was a process of thinking about Sissy and what she does. At what point do you feel you and Michael figured Brandon out?

Actually, it all came down to Abi Morgan and I, and our research in New York. Originally, I wanted to make this film in London, but nobody in London would talk to us about being a sex addict. I think at the time, the media was swamped with sex addiction. It was a major story at the time, and people were very wary about speaking about it. No one wanted to share information about it. So I had to come to New York to speak with two experts in the field. And they were two of the pioneers, to a certain extent, of studying this affliction. In speaking with them, they introduced me to addicts and recovering addicts. So I said to myself, “Why don’t I make this film in New York?” And that became the starting point of figuring out Brandon. That’s interesting that you bring up a hesitancy of people to talk about sex and sex addiction. Because of that, could you almost predict the headlines “Shame” is generating over the NC-17 rating?

No, no. As a filmmaker, you just have to try and portray reality and humanity. Sometimes what we see isn’t particularly attractive and pretty, but it’s something that we have to look at to have some kind of idea who we are and where we are. We can’t just put our head in the sand. We have to gauge from where we’ve come, and where we want to go.

“Shame” opens in limited release on Friday, Dec. 2.

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Post by Admin on Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:23 am

Shame director wanted to see X-Men star naked

Steve McQueen jokes about nude Michael Fassbender in provocative indie drama Shame

November 30, 2011

Steve McQueen – no, not that Steve McQueen – the director of the controversial indie drama Shame, says his whole reason for making the steamy sex drama was to see X-Men: First Class star Michael Fassbender naked.

Fassbender stars in the acclaimed film as a sex-obsessed New Yorker who clashes with his estranged sister, played by Drive star Carey Mulligan, when she comes to visit.

McQueen tells Collider that, while he was interested in exploring the issue of sex addiction, he was also keen to see the buff Fassbender in the, well, buff.

"I wanted to see Michael [Fassbender] naked," McQueen jokes. "I was like, 'Strip, motherf—er!' Why? Well, I was speaking to (co-writer) Abi [Morgan] and she had this wonderful quote where she said, 'It's like having a dog whistle go off in the room.'"

Though the film has already received praise from critics, it's also attracted attention due to its provocative subject matter and numerous nude scenes, which have caused the picture to receive a rare NC-17 rating.

The director says sex addiction isn't often discussed and because of that, most people aren't aware of the damage it causes.

"It's a situation that people know about, but they see it for the first time and are made aware of it," he says. "It's extraordinarily important, but no one's speaking about it. It's a huge phenomenon."

Beyond just sex addiction however, McQueen says he thinks Shame speaks to even larger issues about the modern world. "It's not just about sex addiction. It's about addictions, in general, and being in a world where we don't necessarily have self-will. It's difficult to be a human being, right now."

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Post by Admin on Thu Dec 08, 2011 7:56 pm

12/5/11 at 4:00 PM

Shame Director Steve McQueen on Sex Addiction in New York City and Michael Fassbender’s Full-Frontal Nudity

By Jada Yuan
Last week, NC-17 Oscar hopeful Shame debuted in New York, a city that is featured in the film as perhaps the greatest place ever to be a sex addict. Director and video artist Steve McQueen, who previously directed the movie's now ubiquitous star, Michael Fassbender, as imprisoned IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in Hunger, sees the setting as less important than what's happening within it. Still, he entertained Vulture's attempts to find out why New York, New York, is featured so prominently, along with Fassbender's full-frontal nudity, and what benefits McQueen and the crew got out of shooting in the Standard Hotel.

Your movie Hunger starred Michael Fassbender as Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands. Why go from that to this?
I mean, it’s like any other director. You sort of go from one subject to another subject. It’s not so radical, really. It’s just one of those things where this is what interested me at the time. The process started with myself and [co-screenwriter] Abi Morgan having a conversation and talking about the Internet, and from that, pornography, and from that, sex addition. And that was sort of a seed that was planted. And then we went to research the project in New York City with experts in the field and were talking to people on the ground, people who actually have this affliction, several people. Just in-depth interviews because there was no story, there was no narrative, just an interest. I mean, it could have turned into a dead end, but the research led us to this point.

Did you know people who were sex addicted?
No, I didn’t know anyone. I suppose everyone has seen it. I’m not a sex addict, if you’re asking me that question. Nothing personal.

What did you find out from the experts about sex addiction?
It’s similar to alcohol addiction, similar to most addictions. There’s nothing sort of unfamiliar about it. Of course, when I was told about the idea of sex addiction, I laughed, like most people do. But then you realize it’s similar to a person who’s an alcoholic, when that person cannot survive through the day without drinking one or two bottles of vodka. Similar to sex addicts: They cannot survive a day without having some kind of sexcapade. Then it ceases to become funny.

And that’s where shame comes in.
The idea of shame, the word, shame, came about through talking to a lot of these people who have this affliction. They went on these sexcapades, as such, and when they came out the other end of it, there was this feeling of, really, self-loathing, of feeling shame that came over them. It kept on coming up as a word. It kept on coming up again and again and again. I thought, Well, this should be the title. And in order to sort of get over the shame, of course, what they would do is start over again with the sex, similar to any addiction.

Where did the idea come to introduce a sister [Carey Mulligan] who also is very troubled?
I wanted to also make it a kind of love story in a way of siblings. One of the characters is exploding and the other character is imploding. Carey being exploding, and her brother imploding. But they come from the same background. They come from a place … as she says in the movie, “We come from a bad place. We’re not bad people.” And how they deal with it.

But you don’t say what happened to them.
You know, I didn’t want it to be mysterious. I wanted it to be familiar. And in order to do that, I thought, you know, everybody will have some understanding of what that might be. You bring people in to see a movie, but you ask them to bring in their intelligence and their knowledge as well, so what happens in that situation is they understand it far more than if there were details and it was specific and blah blah blah. They can bring themselves and their own histories and their own experiences to the movie. But also, you know, sometimes in a movie you don’t need a head and a tail. You just need a tosser.

Did you include Carey singing “New York, New York” very melancholically as a way to highlight New York being the ultimate place for sex addiction?
I didn’t say it was the ultimate place. I never said that. It could be in L.A. or New York, but it’s New York because it’s a place where people want to talk and it’s a place of access and excess and it’s an interesting place for a character like Brandon. But it could be any place in the world. The whole idea of “New York, New York” is, if you read lyrics, it’s a sad song. “New York, New York” is a blues. Bessie Smith should have sung that song. I know Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra sing it in a very triumphant fashion, but if you listen to the lyrics, it’s very sad. I mean, it’s a person who’s obviously poor — “these vagabond shoes” — possibly a vagrant to some extent, who wants to make it. It’s a dream that is not fulfilled at all. It’s a dream. So I thought of actually putting it on its head and working to make them play the song right. And what it does is it talks more about their relationship, Brandon and Sissy’s relationship. It’s the only time when Sissy has a situation when she’s talking to Brandon, or having a communication with Brandon, which is heard and responded to. It’s the only time he actually listens to her in the whole movie, and it happens in a very abstract form as within this song.

The premiere in Toronto was actually on September 11, and that was quite poignant when Carey sang that song. A number of people, I heard, were crying in the audience. It was a very cathartic moment for a lot of people. Because when she’s singing, she’s singing not just about their background and where they came from, but the environment that they’re in. It was very moving

At a press conference, Fassbender said he imagined that his character Brandon had once played piano and gave it up and was missing music in that moment.
Nah, I think that’s Michael going off on one.

How did you shoot Fassbender differently in this movie than in Hunger? He’s starving and unsexy in that movie, and robust and virile in this one.
I don’t know. I think it’s eye of the beholder. I was interested in ritual. You know, someone gets up in the morning, they have a glass of water, they go to the bathroom, they have a shower. So by just following the ritual, it’s kind of beautiful.

Why did you decide within the ritual to include full-frontal male and female nudity?
People get up in the morning and they go to toilet and they have a thing of water. They don’t even think about that. It’s not about me including it. It’s quite normal. It’s the most unexotic thing in the world.

How did you make the nudity comfortable on the set?
Just do it. I mean, it’s of no big importance. Half the people that are going to see this film, hopefully, have exactly what that person is walking around with. It’s of no shock to them at all. And 99 percent of the people will have seen it before. It’s of no interest. I mean, I’ve never seen anybody shot in the head with a gun before, so I think that would be, to me, much more startling than that. It’s of no big … it’s not titillating. It’s not exoticized. It’s just a guy having a piss and a glass of water and going to have a shower.

There’s also lots and lots of sex, and long sexual sequences.
Well, there’s one scene where he’s trying to make love, with Nicole Beharie’s character, Marianne, which is very sensual. It’s for me, very sexy. But we have to see it in a long shot because we have to see that he’s attempting to sort of make an emotional connection. Okay? He’s attempting to make an emotional connection, but it fails. It breaks. It fails. So we have to go through that in order to see him sort of trying to connect. And of course when we cut to him having sex against the window with this woman, it’s very quick. It’s very matter of fact. Do you want a drink? No. Do you want me to help you with your bra? No. And it’s out. So we know what that’s about. But the emotion, what helps from this long shot is the emotion of him trying, is the effort. He really wants to, but he can’t. For example, with the threesome, it’s actually a foursome, because I’m bringing the viewer in. It’s in a way, it’s not at all … it’s about his ecstasy within it, but it’s the saddest ecstasy in the world. For me, at least, it’s the saddest ecstasy in the world, because he’s trying to get something out of it. But ultimately, it’s quite tragic.

What’s changed about Fassbender as an actor since Hunger?
Nothing. I mean, this is not just a Michael Fassbender movie. It’s a Carey Mulligan movie. Carey Mulligan is spectacular in this movie. That’s something we have to get across. And Nicole Beharie, a newcomer. Nobody knew about her before, really. People are talking about her now. She could be a star. James Badge Dale. My god, James! It’s an ensemble piece. It’s not just a Michael Fassbender movie.

I just asked that because you worked with him on your last movie.
Not much [has changed], really. It’s all about risk-taking. He’s an artist. He’s not an actor. There are a lot of actors out there, but he’s actually an artist. There are a few artists — not a lot.

What did you discover about New York while shooting this?
Well, we shot in winter. It was really snowing at that time. So I realized, “Don’t go in winter.” But what I liked about New York was the people. I’m not kissing anyone’s ass, but honestly to God, crews in New York work so hard and they’re treated very badly. We were very much taken into their heart and they’re fantastic. Also my son came over, so Central Park, the children’s play area, was wonderful. And the subway is great. Who needs taxis? New York, you know, it has a big heart.

You shot a lot in the Standard Hotel. Do you get free rooms there now?
God no!

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Post by Admin on Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:04 pm

Director Steve McQueen on 'Shame,' Sex Addiction, and Falling in Love with Michael Fassbender

By Ben Barna December 5, 2011

With Shame, British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen has crafted one of the year's most talked about films. Yes, there's the easy blog fodder like Michael Fassbender's already infamous full frontal scene, and the NC-17 rating. But after watching the film—a devastating portrayal of sex addiction—those talking points will become afterthoughts. Shame, which follows Brandon (Fassbender) as he manages his cravings and his sister (Carey Mulligan), is unrelenting, and stays with you long after you've left the theater. We recently spoke to McQueen about the realities of sex addiction, his professional romance with Michael Fassbender, and why Shame is not a portrayal of New York City.

Is Brandon a sex addict, or is he just incredibly promiscuous?
He is a sex addict. He’s not a person. There is a difference between someone who is promiscuous, and someone who is a sex addict. A sex addict is a person that cannot go a day without having his fix, and his fix is a situation in which he is relieving himself 20 times a day. There’s an all-encompassing thing about it. Being promiscuous is one thing, but being an addict is completely different.

And what does being an addict mean? You keep doing something despite the consequences?
Precisely. It destroys and ruins and alters your life. It’s a thing that you have to have. It’s like alcohol addiction. Sexual addiction is the same thing. It’s one of those things where the addiction controls and alters the person’s life.

Where did this film come from?
I wrote it with Abi Morgan. Me and Abi sort of came together in London, and then what happened was that we had a conversation, and it sort of stumbled upon sex addiction, and we went to speak to people in London, but some of them didn’t want to speak to us. It was in the news at the time, and I think people in London were very suspicious on talking to me or anyone about it.

Why was it in the news? Tiger Woods?
Possibly because of Tiger Woods. It’s usually high profile people. and then they talk about it and laugh at it, and not take it seriously, so I think that made people not want to open up. So I came over to New York to talk to experts in the field, and they introduced us to people who had the addiction, or were recovering sex addicts. Talking to experts was amazing. So myself and Abi, we were sort of like Miss Marple and Columbo. We were following a trail, not knowing where it would actually lead.

What did you make of the film’s NC-17 rating?
At first when they said, We got an NC-17, I thought, Someone is giving me a rap band. I thought it was a CD. I didn’t know what NC-17 was. Again, it was one of those things, in which Fox Searchlight had been fantastic, but I had never discussed NC-17 with them. I never discussed an alternative movie with them. All I want is for people to get a chance to see the movie, that’s all. If it’s NC-17, then so be it. It’s kind of strange in a way, how something so ordinary—we all take part in sex, we all know about sex. I imagine a majority of us have had sex and have seen the opposite sex or same sex naked. I’ve never held a machine gun in my hand or ever shot anyone in the head, but that seems to be the norm to some people within cinema.

What is it about your relationship with Michael Fasssbender that allows you to work so well and so frequently together?
I think it’s obviously the camaraderie and the love. It’s like falling in love: You don’t expect anything to happen, but when it does, you hold onto it. It’s about challenging each other, really. I don’t know how it came about. I still don’t know. I don’t question that.

You’re about to make your third film with him. Is it almost at the point where you don’t want to make one without him?
I don’t think it’s a wanted thing, but we do love working with each other, really. There will be times I won’t be working with him, and there are times he won’t be working with me. There is a collaboration, a connection—a very deep connection—and I don’t know how that came about. Falling in love, how does that happen?

How did you first meet him?
From an audition. I fell in love with the cocky bastard, and I thought to myself, What the f&#! is he doing here for an audition? And of course, he was auditioning for Hunger, and our casting director said, This guy is great. I think we should use him. And from the first audition I thought, Why is he here? And he came in for the second audition and he just shined through, and I thought, That’s the guy. From there, we sort of put a house on fire.

What do you think of his rise to superstardom?
I think he’s been getting along. I mean, how many men who are actors have that kind of masculinity, but also that extraordinary femininity and extraordinary fragility. I recognize him in myself, and with most actors I don’t. I think a lot of people do.

When Carey Mulligan sings “New York, New York,” it’s heartbreaking? Did it feel the same watching it live?
Yes, we did a few takes together. When we got there, it was just exhilarating. Goose pimples on the back of your neck. It was quite amazing.

I found the New York you portrayed to be very glassy, cold and sort of impersonal…
No, not at all.

How so?
It’s all about rituals. I follow Brandon. Where does he go to work? How does he get to work? How does he get home? Where does do his laundry, his shopping? The impersonal thing may be possibly—I don’t see it that way at all, but most of the time people live and work in the sky.

Did you portray the New York that you know?
Again, it’s not a portrayal, it’s following the character. I wasn’t interested in making it look any other way other than itself and through the character, and the character is the city. Forgive me for saying this, but this is nonsense, saying that New York is lonely or whatever it is.

The sex scenes in the film were particularly intense. How do you create an environment on set to shoot something like that?
Our crew was just fabulous. The New York crew we had was just amazing. Absolutely amazing.

How so?
From the catering, to the camera department, to the hair, makeup, and wardrobe, it was just amazing, the camaraderie. And we just liked each other, and from the first day, there was a real team effort. It was one of the best experiences I ever had. People were skipping to get to work in the morning, because we were a team, everyone was together. And when you create an environment where it’s safe, that is when these actors are willing to take risks. They feel safe.

But are those scenes difficult to shoot?
How could it be difficult to shoot if it’s a safe environment? That’s what I’m trying to say. With a safe environment, it’s not difficult at all.

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Post by Admin on Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:05 pm

Director Steve McQueen on Shame: It’s Not About Sex, It’s About Giving Audiences Something to Think About
By Krista Smith
10:45 AM, December 2 2011

BAFTA-nominated director Steve McQueen, whose NC-17-rated Shame was a darling of the festival circuit, speaks with senior West Coast editor Krista Smith about the online-porn epidemic, casting Michael Fassbender, and why today’s cinema is pretty lily-livered. Highlights from their chat:

Krista Smith: When I first saw Shame, the era struck me—it’s almost like it could’ve been 80s-era New York. The bars you chose, it could be in any decade.

Steve McQueen: I wanted to make a movie about now. There’s a kind of selfishness—no, the word is entitlement: there’s a certain amount of entitlement going on. It’s in the air. You point a camera and you catch it. My intention was to hopefully make a movie which sort of was about now, so if you see it in 20 years time, it’ll still be about 2011.

The figures we see today about the number of online-porn addicts are just staggering.

Yeah, it’s crazy. And kids [watching] pornography has never been as terrific as it is now. Never, ever. Kids keep getting iPhones—two clicks on that iPhone and they get the most exquisite pornographic images you can think of. The time is very different. I mean, [compared with] the early 70s—that’s a different ballgame completely. In order to see moving images then—sexual moving images—you had to go somehow to a theater, or maybe a private club with a 16-millimeter projector where you could rent dirty movies.

Meanwhile, tell me about your relationship with Michael Fassbender.

I met him at an audition [for 2008’s Hunger], and at first I thought to myself looking at this guy, Well, he’s a bit cocky. Why is he here? You know, there was a certain kind of fed-up-ness about him, and it was interesting, because when we were doing the second round of auditions, my casting director Gary Davy said, “Look, just give the guy a second chance.” I actually didn’t want him. But [I said,] “O.K., O.K., let’s just put him into the mix.” And the second time I saw him he was a totally different character.

That evening, I was drunk on the back of his motorcycle. We rode off to have a pint. It was great. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

He is so good in this movie.

He’s a different class. There’s nothing else like him, for me at least, Fassbender. There’s a femininity to him, a fragility, which is so beautiful in a way that it speaks. You get a lot actors right now that are very macho, very manly, and whatever that is, I don’t know, it’s alien to me.

For me, Brandon’s relationship with his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) is so profound. She’s just so needy, she wants company, but the actual act of familial intimacy is so repulsive to him.

Sissy, she is so demanding of him—so “I want your love”—and I think that’s what she wants of Brandon. She brings the past back with her, and he didn’t want to be reminded of that. I think that sort of sibling relationship is kind of loaded. And I don’t know if you’ve got a brother or sister, but, you know, we can be extraordinarily mean to each other. And that was interesting to talk about with Michael and Carey, because they both have a sibling of the opposite sex.

I love that we’re not hearing any backstory—we just know that it must’ve been f&%$#& up wherever they came from.

You know, I’m very disappointed with how people make movies these days. And I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be saying this, but I’ll be honest—I think they’re rubbish. It’s almost like they’re treating audiences like idiots. Every movie is a cliché. . . . And nothing this year, ever, has surprised me. I think the response to Shame—you know, we got the Critics Prize in Venice and we were the best-reviewed movie in Toronto—just shows you the thirst and the want for something [that] they don’t know where it’s going to go. And I think a character like Brandon—we’ve got a deep sympathy for him, a love for him, just because he’s trying. It’s difficult; it’s just difficult being a human being right now.

But for me, this film is not about judging anything; it’s not about morality. It’s about someone who is just in this world and who deals with what he’s got. Here you are, deal with it. The whole idea that God put us here or whoever put us here on this earth—it’s absolute nonsense.

That’s why I think people respond to it—you recognize parts of us in him.

Absolutely. I like to think that when you go sit down in the cinema, you see yourself. There’s an acknowledgment. I remember when I met with Abi [Morgan, co-screenwriter], and we were talking about writing it, and she said, “I think a dog whistle will be going off in the cinema for the audience.” That’s exactly what I wanted. Also, when I see other movies these days, it’s sort of, what’s the point?

Right, those that placate the audience.

This was an urgent picture for me. It’s all about the urgency and that was it. Not judging—just the urgency of “Look at this, look at this.”

And why now? What was your personal sense of urgency for wanting to do this now?

We can’t be ostriches putting our heads in the sand—sometimes you just have to see what’s out there. A lot of people don’t want to, absolutely. What’s amazing about this film, for me at least, is that the best response we’ve had [is from] women. The men are much more sheepish. I get the impression because they know they’re pointing fingers. The spotlight is on them . . . once the cinema goes to life. It’s a difficult thing to sort of have a conversation about, of course, at first. And then men will say, “Oh, I don’t know, it’s exaggerating. It’s not true”—but they just do not want to talk about it. That’s exactly like Brandon. Brandon doesn’t want to talk. He cannot communicate. I love men, unfortunately, but that’s how we are. It’s indicative of a lot of guys. He’s not going to a shrink.

He’s trapped; he can’t go anywhere.

I love it in movies when people talk or whatever, but I want it in kind of reality. For me it’s very important that I don’t cheap-ify my audience by having him go to a psychiatrist, or talk to his best friend. We have to find it out through the narrative. Sometimes you see this with your friends or people that you know, little “tells” that you see, and you say, Oh, O.K. Audiences are bright. It’s food for them. It’s substance.

And what happens to Brandon, do you know?

I don’t. I hope he’s O.K.

What are you working on now?

A film called Twelve Years a Slave. And it’s starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, who’s a British actor. He’s amazing. And of course there’s Michael [Fassbender] and there’s Brad Pitt in it.

Well, with Shame, we’re all glad you made it, and the fact that it’s NC-17—that’s what it should be. This isn’t child’s play, this is a real epidemic.

I think that people don’t realize it. They say people are exaggerating—[but] I think I’m underplaying the damn thing. All the people we’ve sort of interviewed, it’s crazy. There’s a service now where if you’re married or in a relationship and you want to have an affair with someone else that has nothing to lose, you can get on it.

It’s crazy. Well, I’m so happy you made time to talk about this with me.

No, I’m grateful. I’m extraordinarily grateful. The fact of the matter is it’s time I think we are grown-ups—movies have to grow up. Audiences are grown-ups. It’s not a case of sex or all this kind of stuff, but it’s a case for giving audiences something to f#%@#&! think about.

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Post by Admin on Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:33 pm

Steve McQueen: "I'm not an opportunist, every fibre of myself is invested in my work."

Posted by: Creative Times on December 19, 2011 11:29

Turner Prize-winning artist and film director Steve McQueen made his cinematic debut in 2008 with Hunger, about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. His new film, Shame, again starring Michael Fassbender, tackles the subject of sex addiction. He talks to Katie Popperwell about breaking taboos, making real films not movies and pushing himself to the limit.

“There are plenty of movies out there,” asserts Steve McQueen, “I want to make real films.” The artist and filmmaker is talking to a faintly shell-shocked crowd in Manchester, after a preview screening of new offering Shame. On this evidence, he needn’t worry. No one is about to accuse him of pandering to the mainstream.

Shame is a brutal, unflinching and occasionally traumatic drama about sex addiction – it’s clear that the director has no qualms about discomfiting his audience. But as a Turner Prize-winning artist and hot young directorial name following up his multi award-winning debut, Hunger, you’d think maybe he could afford to relax his defenses slightly. Not a bit of it. McQueen is a curt interviewee and bristles easily. What’s more, he seems more concerned with defending his work than reflecting on it. Which begs the question, how much more seriously does he want us to take him?

The words tumble hastily from his mouth, as if competing to make it into your ears; this gives him a slightly unruly air, but nonetheless one is left in no doubt that beneath the bluster lies a steely focus that is the key to his prolific output and success.

As an artist, you want to challenge yourself but also challenge the media, in this case narrative filmmaking.

Shame is the director’s second cinematic collaboration with Michael Fassbender, who played IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in 2008’s Hunger. In Shame he plays Brandon, a Patrick Bateman-esque sex addict whose fastidious and emotionally desolate routine of downloading internet pornography and having sex with hookers in hotel rooms, is disrupted by the arrival of his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) from whose vitalizing presence he struggles to retreat.

For all the flesh on screen, and there is a lot of flesh, the film is as much about the mechanics of modern urban isolation and the nature of addiction as it is about sex. Brandon is a deeply reclusive character, whose carefully constructed solitude is recognisable as the linchpin of any addiction.

“This film is not about promiscuity,” explains McQueen. “A lot of people are promiscuous, that’s fine. This addiction is actually shaping the way you think, it’s making decisions for you. It controls you. You don’t control the addiction.”

McQueen became fascinated with the pathology of sex addiction along with his co-writer, the playwright Abi Morgan. The pair began researching the phenomenon in London, but were confronted by a wall of silence. “It was around the time of Tiger Woods and this thing was on everyone’s mind but no one was talking about it. We had to go to New York to find two specialists who would speak to us.”

The more McQueen researched the issue he realised that, much like AIDS in the eighties, sexual addiction is a widespread problem that people just aren’t talking about. “It’s a secret – any addiction, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling. I think what’s going on now on the internet facilitates sexual addiction as well as a lot of other things, whether that be prostitution or what have you. It’s a solitary thing, it’s so impersonal and it just kind of amplifies the problems inherent in how people are living today.”

So, back to those “real films”. What exactly does that mean for McQueen? Is it at least partly about raising awareness of subjects that he feels are being overlooked?

“As an artist, you want to challenge yourself but also challenge the media, in this case narrative filmmaking. Both Hunger and Shame dealt with things that no one was actually talking about. No one had spoken about Bobby Sands for 27 years – one of the most important things to happen in British politics and we as a society had swept it under the carpet. I mean, 10 men died of starvation in a British prison cell. It’s crazy.

“The same thing with sexual addiction; for me it is the elephant in the room… the film was like a dog whistle going off in the cinema. So yes, in a way I am interested in things that have been overlooked in the history of film, but really in things that are overlooked in general.”

McQueen’s films and his video artwork frequently focus on the physical body as a site of ambiguity and conflict, but on this point McQueen won’t be drawn; cue a fair amount of huffing and puffing. “No. No… The body… No, I don’t think so.”

The fervent desire to tell the truth about the human experience that lies at the heart of his work, seems a fundamentally artistic motivation, and at odds with previous claims that he “may as well have been a butcher” as an artist, for all that it influences his filmmaking. I wonder whether this dismissal of his artistic background might be a little wide of the mark. The hackles are up again.

“I don’t think it’s got anything to do with art. When people see my films I want them to judge it on the film itself rather than say, this is a person who’s been to art school. It doesn’t really matter as long as the film has something to say.”

But surely, from a personal point of view, his artistic practice must have influenced him in some way? He gives a short laugh and seems to soften slightly. “I’m wangling out of your question. I suppose…. yes, taking chances, experimenting. Experimenting with storytelling. The reason I used that butcher terminology is that all I want to be judged on is my film, not on my background or who people think I am.”

And there it is. McQueen’s “real films” are self-contained works that speak for themselves – explanations are superfluous. This show-don’t-tell approach extends to his directorial style, in which scripting is sparse, allowing the camera to do the talking, and long lingering shots lay bare the emotional content of a performance before cutting away sharply.

“And that’s always what I wanted to do with my artworks. All I wanted to do was to forget the last thing I ever made and start doing the best thing I could do then. So it wasn’t about yesterday, it was about now.

“I invest so much into the subject matter. It’s not fly-by-night. I’m not an opportunist, I’m an investor, I invest myself in my work, whether it’s in [art project] Queen and Country, or Hunger, or Shame. Every fibre of myself is invested in it, but one has to move on after a while.”

Shame (18) is in UK cinemas from January 13, 2012

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The Irish Times - Friday, December 30, 2011
Shame on you


Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in Shame

Intense, private, and fiercely committed, director and artist Steve McQueen talks to DONALD CLARKE about sex addiction, nationality and how Michael Fassbender finishes his sentences

STEVE MCQUEEN has made only two features. But the British director – originally a gallery-based video artist – already has a reputation for delivering material that drags viewers through the emotional mincing machine. Released in 2009, Hunger was a hugely uncomfortable portrait of Bobby Sands’s last days in the Maze Prison. Now, with Shame , McQueen presents the grim experience of a sex-obsessed neurotic in an icily stylish version of New York City. Both films feature unsettling performances from Michael Fassbender. Both feel like the work of a fiercely committed film-maker.

The last time I met Steve McQueen, a few months after he’d finished work on Hunger , he wasn’t sure if he’d ever make another feature film. He did not approach the subject of the Republican hunger strikes lightly.

“No, no, no,” he says in his nervy style. “I really wasn’t thinking of making another feature. We were all depressed. You digest all that research. You talk to people. You think about the people who were killed and the people who did terrible things to one another. Afterwards, I developed two huge rashes on my arms. That was a reaction to the stress. You just don’t know what it takes out of you.”

Yes, Steve McQueen is an intense piece of work. A large man, who speaks with Gatling-gun rapidity, he listens very closely to your questions and analyses every phrase for signs of latent hostility. He cares deeply about what he is doing. Shame never sounded like an obvious follow-up to Hunger. Having made a profoundly troubling film about prisoners starving themselves to death, the director moved on to a drama about a privileged urbanite laid low by his inability to keep his genitals to himself. Fassbender plays some sort of high-ranking creative – possibly an advertising wonk – with a pathological addiction to sex. He hires prostitutes. He relieves himself repeatedly. He eyes up women on the subway.

Some critics have been wary of using the phrase “sex addiction” when describing the film. That term has, after all, become somewhat debased in recent years. Movie stars too often drag it out as a way of justifying their casual promiscuity.

“There is a huge difference between being a sex addict and being promiscuous,” McQueen says. “You are a prisoner of that vice. There are loads of promiscuous people. Good luck to them. This is different. We did research. We talked to people. It’s like the guy who drinks a bottle and a half of whiskey a day. These people sometimes need to relieve themselves 25 times a day.”

To gain a full understanding of this extraordinary, unsettling film, it is important to understand that McQueen profoundly believes in the concept of sexual addiction. You could see the picture as depicting a contemporary version of hell. You might think of it as a morality tale. But McQueen is serious in his assertion that the protagonist is suffering from a class of illness. I casually point out that one of the film’s notable achievements is to bring a real sense of unease to the sex scenes. It seems like a very moral film.

Nobody could accuse Shame (note that title) of celebrating sexual promiscuity. “If I made a film about a drug addiction you wouldn’t be saying that,” he bristles.

I might.

“No you wouldn’t! Because you would already think that drug addiction is not good. You would think being an alcoholic is not good. Because you think sex is a good thing you think differently.” He might have a point.

“I do have a point! People are saying: how can you make a film about sex and not make it sexy? Because it’s an addiction! It’s very obvious. And it’s something people don’t want to recognise. Why are you putting us through this? Because it’s a phenomenon.”

Of West Indian descent, Steve Rodney McQueen grew up in west London as the son of a hard-working builder (not a London Transport employee, as too many articles still suggest). He studied at Chelsea School of Art before moving on to the increasingly voguish Goldsmiths College. McQueen, who beat Tracy Emin and her bed to the Turner Prize in 1999, never convinced (nor wanted to convince, I suspect) as a paid-up member of the annoying Young British Artists clan. He spent much of the 1990s abroad. A private man, he has none of the addiction to self-promotion that drove the likes of Hurst. And he clearly has an equivocal relationship with his own Britishness.

Early this year, his OBE was converted into an even more prestigious CBE and one of his most admired early works, featuring postage stamps honouring individual soldiers killed in Iraq, was, with only mild irony, entitled Queen and Country. Yet his first feature film dealt sensitively with volunteers for the IRA.

Shame is a little bit closer to a conventionally structured feature film than was the often wilfully abstract Hunger. There is something like a story arc on display: the protagonist’s sister, played by Carey Mulligan, turns up and disturbs his squalid lifestyle. But it still looks like the work of an avant-garde artist. Some takes last a delicious eternity.

Does he see making gallery-based art and shooting features as the same job? “Yes, it’s just a different language – like speaking English and Dutch. Making features is more to do with narrative. The art is not so much about that. It’s like poetry and the novel. You are often saying the same thing but in very different ways.” Steve’s key collaborator in the novelistic strain of his work remains that ubiquitous Kerryman Michael Fassbender.

“We just like each other – which is great. The first time I saw Michael was when he auditioned for Hunger . It was his first lead and my first feature.

“Sometimes I finish a take and, as I approach him, he will say: ‘I know, I know’. He doesn’t need to hear what I was going to say. He finishes my sentences.”

Having picked up the best actor prize at the Venice Film Festival and received ecstatic reviews, Shame looks to have confirmed Steve’s position as a member of the artistic establishment. He’s bristling again.

“All I can say to that is: look at the work. At the end of the day it is just about the work. If they want to give me something then thank you very much.” Agitated and jittery throughout our chat, he begins looking nervously about the hotel room. “How much longer do we have left?” About five minutes, I think.

“Less than that, surely.” Am I wearing him down? “No. I am enjoying it. You’re doing well. Don’t get me wrong? But I just want to save something for the next interview.”

We exchange a few more pleasantries before Fassbender, sweeping in to say goodbye to his chum, rescues him from any further interrogation. The two men leave with relatively warm goodbyes.

What a peculiar genius this Steve McQueen is. Somebody should give him a medal.

Shame opens on January 13

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Post by Admin on Sun Jan 01, 2012 4:27 am

Precision shooting

Director Steve McQueen on the most controversial sex film of the year, ‘Shame’

By Zach Baron Friday, December 9, 2011

“Please edit that.”

Steve McQueen, the British-born filmmaker, was in New York last week, sitting in the back of a downtown restaurant. He’s dapper and charming, in a grave kind of way, and though he tends to be unusually good at maintaining eye contact, at this particular moment he was bent over, speaking directly into my tape recorder: “That wasn’t a good answer to the question. I’m so sorry. Edit please.”

For those who have already seen the NC-17-rated “Shame,” McQueen’s new film about sex addiction starring a debauched Michael Fassbender, or “Hunger,” McQueen’s 2008 debut starring an emaciated Fassbender, the director’s manic exactitude will come as no surprise. It turns out McQueen conducts interviews in the same manner he makes films: emotionally but deliberately, with an eye toward perfecting the composition of each moment. “Can we sort that around?” he asked apologetically, reordering his own words on the fly. “I want to start with …”

“Shame” is a precisely made movie about one family’s extraordinarily messy life. Brandon (Fassbender) lives alone in a modern Chelsea building and works at a lucrative but unspecified job. He is also an abject addict, sunk deep into Internet pornography, hired girls and joyless, agonized solo sessions in office bathrooms. Brandon is in perpetual crisis, but it is not until his equally damaged sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) turns up at his apartment one day that things begin to fully come apart.

Both Fassbender and Mulligan spend a not-insignificant part of their onscreen time in various forms of undress, but while “Shame” is definitely a film about sex, it’s also very much about siblings: Brandon and Sissy’s tumultuous relationship is one of the most realistic — if extreme — depictions of a brother-sister dynamic ever put on film.

“What was interesting about it was that myself, Carey and Michael each have one other sibling, of the opposite sex,” McQueen said. “So we could all relate to that situation.” Fassbender and Mulligan were cast separately and had never met before arriving on the “Shame” set. Their initial encounter “wasn’t necessarily the warmest thing in the world,” McQueen recalled. “But I think they started working the first time they met — that’s how good they are. It was one trying to be close, the other one not, immediately.”

Sissy, at a glance, is everything Brandon is not: extroverted, emotional, outgoing — the messy, radiant bonfire to Brandon’s rage-infused slow burn. But they are fundamentally the same. Each loathes and pities the other for the flaws they share. In the film’s most mesmerizing scene, Sissy slurs her way through a harrowing rendition of “New York, New York” at a swank nightclub, the camera in tight and lingering, first on her face, then on Brandon’s. As Mulligan empties herself out for the benefit of the room, a single angry tear slides down Fassbender’s cheek. “I didn’t know he was going to cry at all,” McQueen said. “But you put him in the room, you talk to him — it’s almost like a boxer in the corner before he goes out for the round.”

“Shame” marks the second straight movie in which McQueen has made difficult demands of his star. In “Hunger,” Fassbender starved himself to portray the Irish hunger-striker Bobby Sands; in “Shame,” he plays an unlikable and tormented addict whose frequent physical nudity only highlights his tormented and closed-off mind. McQueen said that Fassbender accepted the part without hestitation. “I remember asking him quite sheepishly, ‘Well, Michael, you’ve got to, uh …’

“ ‘Yeah yeah yeah, what’ve I got to do, Steve?’

“ ‘Well, you’ve got to, uh …’

“ ‘Yeah yeah, no problem.’

“It was one of those situations,” McQueen concluded.

On the morning McQueen and I spoke, the first American reviews of “Shame” since its festival debut were beginning to circulate. Many of them reiterated what has, for the Turner Prize-winning McQueen, become a familiar charge in the three years since the former visual artist began making feature films: that McQueen has a troubling tendency to aestheticize the extreme behavior his movies frequently depict.

When I brought it up, McQueen jumped in swiftly. “I would love to answer that question,” he said, before I had even finished asking it.

“The reason people say that about me is I’m an artist. Film critics have this sort of suspicion — if I didn’t come from a visual arts background, they would never say that.” He mentioned a prominent review that had singled out excrement-smeared walls of the prison in “Hunger” as an example of how the exquisite composition of McQueen’s films can sometimes be at odds with their content.

“You think of Goya, who painted the most repulsive images you can think of war, and they stand the test of time. Because what those images do is allow the audience to engage with them. You can’t engage in a painting if it repulses you.”

The same, McQueen said, was true of “Shame,” not to mention any number of other films whose directors are generally revered. “Why aren’t people talking about Scorsese being an aesthete? Because he is! Why aren’t people talking about Antonioni? Because he is! Why aren’t people talking about Kubrick? Because he is!” McQueen paused. “But because I come from an art background, that’s something to say.”

It was a beautiful late-fall morning in New York, and a glance outside seemed to calm the director down. “Like, Michael Mann and ‘Miami Vice’,” he said, laughing. “What were those amazing shoes that Crockett or Tubbs had?”

McQueen’s publicist arrived at the table to end the interview. “Espadrilles?” she supplied.

“Espadrilles!” McQueen said, satisfied for a brief moment. “I loved those.”

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Post by Admin on Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:31 am

Steve McQueen
The visionary British writer/director talks Shame, sex and cinema.
Adam Woodward
Friday, January 06 2012 11:271 GMT

In just two features, Steve McQueen has established himself as one of the UK’s truly visionary filmmakers. A creator of extraordinarily passionate and incendiary movies, in person he’s every bit as fiery as we’d hoped, as we found found out when we sat down with McQueen recently to chew the fat on sex, Shame, and cinema.

LWLies: How’re things?

McQueen: Good. I’m very pleased with how we’ve been received, starting off in Venice. Of course when you’re showing something for the first time to people, for an audience, you’re petrified but that was interesting to see the public’s response, which was great. And also seeing Michael [Fassbender]’s response, because that was the first time he’d seen it. Then of course Toronto, which again was amazing. And New York… Bringing the movie home to New York was amazing because that’s where it started really. It was similar in the way that going back to Belfast was special for Hunger, it was like going back home.

New York is a good place to start. Why did you decide to make Shame there?

Well, actually, what happened was that it was never my intention to make a movie in New York. Never. What happen was, I had a meeting with [Shame co-writer] Abi Morgan… somehow we got together. I looked at my watch knowing we only had an hour and suddenly it’s three hours later and we’re still talking. And, um, you know, the conversation started off; we started talking about the internet and from there we got onto pornography and then sexual addiction. Alarm bells started ringing in my head, I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind, and I came back to London and attempted to speak to several sex addicts, but no one would talk to me. So then I went after experts in the field, and it just so happened that the experts we found were in New York. They introduced us to sex addicts, and from there it just made sense to make the film in New York. The wind had carried us there.

So it was circumstance that led you there?

Yeah. But, you know, some things happen by accident and you’re happy for that.

New York is such an important character in Shame, in Brandon’s life…

Sure. I’ve been going to New York since 1977, since the blackout and Elvis dying, I fell in love with the place then. The majority of my family live there and my work as far as my art is concerned revolves around New York. I’m there virtually every year, if not twice, three times a year. So there’s a familiarity to it, specifically to Manhattan which is where most of the film is set. I’d say after London that’s the place I’m most familiar with, even though I live in Amsterdam. It wasn’t alien to me, but then this character, Brandon, was. So we had to find out where he would live, what job he would go to, how much salary he’d have, which led to what kind of apartment he’d have – his apartment’s kind of small. And, of course, what was interesting to me is that a lot of New Yorkers live and work in the sky. For a European that’s quite a weird thing to get your head around, and when I was making the movie, for three months I was living 24 or 25 floors up. Often there’s a huge panoramic view from these apartments, but what it actually does is it makes your own perspective on life quite lonely. It’s almost like a funnel; you’re standing at the small end and there’s a whole world out there but you’re very far away from it. It’s like a cinema screen in your house, but it isolates you…

The scene where Carey Mulligan sings ‘New York, New York’ is set in a high-rise bar. The scene belongs to a different world from the rest of the film, a less grounded place.

Uh-huh, absolutely. It’s the lack of space, that’s the thing. In order to get an illusion of space you make buildings with massive windows; that’s why New York is all skyscrapers and glass and steel. Otherwise it would be so claustrophobic. But there’s always this sense that you are one in a million, you have no significance.

Going back to before Hunger, we’re interested in how you and Michael bonded. Not how you met, but how the relationship began.

Initially we didn’t get on at all. I thought, ‘Who is this arrogant person?’ In the audition [for Hunger] he came in ad asked questions about the script and my immediate reaction was, ‘Who’s this guy?’ What happened was, I was seeing other people the next day and I decided to bring him back in and seeing him that second time I realised he was the guy. That was it. After that we got on like a house on fire. I don’t really know how it happened to be honest with you. It’s not something I asked for but I’m very grateful it happened. It’s a lot like falling in love in that the most unexpected moments can be the ones you cherish the longest.

You can’t go out looking for it?

Yeah because if you do it’ll never happen. That was never my intention. Love is the only thing I can compare it to. Sometimes we’ll be on set and I’ll just grunt and I’ll get a grunt back and we’ll know what each other wants. Other times he’s finishing my sentences and I’m finishing his. It’s odd because I don’t really question it. I’ve never questioned it. But one of the things I’ve found is that not everyone can do what Michael does, and I didn’t know that. I came from working with actors in a very different way and… I don’t know, it’s very difficult to put my finger on it.

Hunger was a political film in the more overt sense that it centred on a political figure. Shame is about sexual politics. Do you see much cohesion between the two?

Yeah, I think it’s about how we things affect us. Of course, Hunger was overtly political and, as you say, Shame focuses on sexual politics. But the important thing there is that it’s not a political film, it’s not a comment on modern life. You know, sex addiction was around a long time before the internet, it didn’t start just because technology facilitated it. It’s just about how we live. We don’t have choices often, we’re given choices through by surroundings we live in and we have to work out the best ways to deal with that. Um, you know, again, it’s how things work. Everything’s political: love is political, this bottle of water in front of me is political. Tell me it’s not.

Going back to the research into Brandon’s persona, did you find that most sex addicts you spoke to where normal nine-to-five kind of guys?

Well, again, yes, they were very normal, and the ones who paid for therapy maybe had a bit more money than some of the others. There’re all kinds of people who suffer from that addiction in all kinds of shapes and forms. But just to focus on, um… we met a few guys that were young and had disposable incomes. That’s the sort of people we were looking for, the people that we knew we could be faithful to when it came to telling their story.

Brandon is a very ritualistic creature.

Sure. Well, I’m very interested in ritual, especially the commute and the food he eats, the way he eats it. That was very important to me. He’s a busy guy, like we all are, and he relies on services to get things do; whether it’s order his take-out or getting his laundry done. You know, he jogs in a very ritualistic way. But the thing I love the most about Brandon’s ritual is the music. The whole idea of him listening to Glenn Gould records and him having a connection with vinyl, with records, was very important to me. There’s this great tactility to it, the tactility of music where you take a record out of the sleeve, place onto the record player, bring the arm across… that’s such a beautiful ritual. I wanted him to have a physical connection to the music.

Talking technology, we don’t know when Brandon’s addiction started, but there’s a sense that the internet isn’t solely to blame. A lot you people point that finger, but you don’t. Why?

I think sex is more accessible now just because of the internet. I mean, when I was growing up the nearest thing I got to pornography was the top shelf of a newsagents. Now you click twice on a mouse and it’s up on the screen. So the internet has definitely facilitated sex addiction, but it’s not to blame. Brandon uses prostitutes, he uses magazines, he fetishises collecting them, so he has more than one way to get his rocks off, which is often the case. Few sex addicts are just addicted to internet pornography.

Shame is a snapshot of Brandon’s life, we don’t see the start or the end point of his journey.

That’s exactly it, we come into it without a head or a tail. It’s a moment, we don’t know him before and we don’t know what will happen to him after. When we present this situation with Sissy and Brandon we don’t explain the past, and the reason I did that was because I didn’t want it to be familiar. Everyone when they go to the cinema brings their luggage and their baggage into the theatre and they can gauge what could have happened. It’s up the audience to make their own mind up, I’m not going to spin some long, tiresome yarn for their sake. Also, I didn’t want it to be an excuse for what Brandon is doing.

Sex addiction is regarded as taboo, whereas alcoholism, smoking addition, etc, have been stripped of much of the stigma surrounding them. Why do you think sex addiction is not as commonly depicted in popular culture?

Look, you can go back 50 years, before Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend, and people didn’t even talk about it then. It’s being taken seriously now. It’s the same with sex addiction. When I first heard about it I laughed, but when you realise that in order to get through a day this person has to relieve themselves 10 or so times it ceases to become funny. Sex is everywhere so it seems to be okay, and if you’ve got a healthy sex life then it’s fantastic, but when sex becomes something that you need to get you through a day it becomes dangerously unhealthy.

Is Shame social observation?

It’s not in the sense that I’m not making a comment, it’s just the reality that’s out there. It’s got nothing to do with me waving red flag, it’s just how it is. I have no judgment on it, I’m just reflecting reality. I’m not interested in making a statement. I’m an immoral person who leans into the moral spectrum every now and then. What artists have done since the beginning of time is look at ourselves and put ourselves on canvasses or in sculptures or in the cinema… Are these answers okay, by the way, I have a tendancy to ramble.

Not at all, this is great. Just thinking about your career from a wider perspective now… Was there a moment before Hunger when you decided you wanted to focus on making films?

No. The subject matter tells me what to do. The next one might want me to make a sculpture, it might want me to do a print. The subject matter is the arse for the film, not the other way around. I want to make a feature film, doesn’t mean anything. Bobby Sands was crying out for a narrative, a feature film, same with sex addiction, but other times it doesn’t work that way. I did a film about Coltan which is the mineral that you find in everyone’s mobile phones, about five years ago, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the content, not the form. The content provides the form.

Inevitably with a film that handles such delicate subject material you’re going to get labels like ‘controversial’ and ‘brave’. How do you respond to that?

I don’t really care to be honest with you. I don’t really care. It is what it is, I’m not reactionary; I’m not trying to stir the pot. I’m just trying to make films that have a reason to be made.

Do you make your art for yourself?

No, no, I’m not that selfish. It’s not about me it’s about we. I’ve collaborated with a lot of people to make this film, and film is an immensely collaborative process. It was important to make Shame. Full stop.

Our tagline is ‘truth and movies’, what’s the single greatest truth you discovered while making these two features?

Be nice to people and you’re film will turn out better. It sounds corny but it’s true, the truth is that people in general are really nice and I believe that everyone should be respected. That’s the truth.

You clearly value the efforts of others.

Yes, but I’m a dictator. I’m an extraordinary, ruthless dictator, but I’m not stupid. As any good leader will say, you have to recognise other people’s talents in order to make your work better. Abi Morgan and Shaun Bobbit, who I’ve worked with for 11 years, Joe Walker, the editor, Ian Canning, the producer, Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan… these are all extremely talented people, you have the cream of the crop. But they stimulating, they need someone who will arose and inspire them; allow their talents to come to the fore. That’s what being a leader is about; inspiring those around you. To inspire a performance, to inspire a cameraman, to inspire the catering to make nice food for us. It starts from the ground up. If the food’s s$#! on set it’s disastrous. Look after the chef and you’ll look after your movie.

Do you see filmmaking as your profession now?

No, it’s not a job. I’m lucky enough that I can pay my bills and my mortgage with it, it’s fantastic, but that was never the purpose.

What did Carey bring to Shame, how did she come to be Sissy?

Carey’s great, but she’s nothing like Michael Fassbender. Obviously Michael and I knew each other and there was a lot for her to work out before she came on set.

You mean in terms of the character?

Sure, but there are expectations as well that she had and she’s told me that it was tough in terms of the research that was involved with Sissy. She appreciated it because we went on a real journey together with Sissy. You know, I know Sissy, you know Sissy, everyone out there knows Sissy, it’s someone that’s very needy and uncompromising, very demanding on you. You love that person but sometimes you can’t take that person. That person can be extraordinarily exhilarating sometimes but other times they’re just too much. She’s an extreme, but she’s universal. Most of us get through life making compromises, but Sissy never compromises and because of that she’ll get hurt more. We did a lot of talking through that, a lot of talking.

Going forward, you’ve just announced your third film, which Michael will again be involved in…


What’s the hope for the next one?

Just to try to do the best film that I could possibly do. Right now I couldn’t do a better film than Shame. I couldn’t do better, but I hope the next one that I do will be better. It will be better.

Do you look back at your work much?

Nope. But then that was the best thing I could’ve done. Progress, that’s it.

Do you feel like a part of the British film industry now?

I’m not a part of any British nothing. I’m me. End of story. I’m not interested in nationalism, never was. The British film industry, being a part of it, doesn’t mean a thing to me.

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Post by Admin on Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:55 pm

How to Film Sex Addiction: Talking With the Director of 'Shame'
By Robert Levin

Dec 1 2011, 8:02 AM ET

An interview with Steve McQueen about his new, critically acclaimed NC-17 film

shame steve mcqueen 615a.jpg

Writer/director Steve McQueen and actors Carey Mulligan and James Badge Dale on the set of Shame. (Fox Searchlight)
Movies have dealt with various forms of addiction many times before. But rarely have they truly mirrored the life of an addict, viscerally evoking the existential torture of an unstoppable compulsion.

Shame, the latest film from British writer-director Steve McQueen, burrows under the skin of its sex-addicted protagonist Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) and finds its way to a deeply uncomfortable place.

Few movies have made wall-to-wall sex seem to be a grimmer enterprise, the function of a man succumbing to the deepest recesses of his tormented brain rather than his libidinal desires. As temptations abound within his high-powered New York milieu, Brandon fights a losing battle against his destructive obsession, which threatens his health, his job and his already-estranged relationship with his sister, the aptly named Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who turns up at his antiseptic apartment when she's left with nowhere else to go.

Here, McQueen (Hunger) speaks about filmmaking as a form of investigation, his fascination with addiction, and how it feels to be at the helm of the most prominent NC-17 film in years, which opens in limited release on Friday.

How great of a challenge was it to make a movie with adult themes, unafraid of depicting sexuality, in this day and age?

It wasn't really a challenge. For me, it's the movie I wanted to make. It was about finding out about things. You investigate. You experiment. And then you produce a movie. For me, it was never a situation of a challenge.

It was more a situation of being open to the possibilities of what occurs when you follow addiction, specifically sexual addiction, and when you find out about it and you examine the whole thing, like all addictions it's got nothing to do with the actual thing you're addicted to itself. Alcohol addiction has got nothing to do with being thirsty. And sex addiction's got nothing to do with sex. That's interesting. In some ways, that's the thing that is exhilarating, to try and work with that.

What intrigued you about exploring sex addiction in particular?

What was interesting to me is the whole idea of what happens when a person is not in control of their emotions, when a person is not in control of their actions. With sex, it's interesting because it's really something which we all participate in. It's not something like alcohol or drugs that you can stop. So that really fascinated me. The fact of the matter is there's really no self will, for example. We don't have it. If I had self will I'd have a six-pack. It's an extreme form of that and how we negotiate our way in the world.

To what extent is Brandon's addiction informed or enhanced by the upper-class Manhattan world he inhabits?

Michael is [playing] a viral marketer, and you'd never know that. His office could be any kind of office you can think of. I suppose it's the high pressures, possibly, and having a lot of money. I suppose that's an aspect of it. But it doesn't just happen in those environments. It happens to people all over poor communities, as well as to an everyday man or woman. It has a broad sweep of society involved.

Given that broad sweep, why'd you and co-writer Abi Morgan focus on a high-end, wealthy Manhattan marketer?

The people we met often came from these kinds of worlds. We thought, "OK, let's go with that." Originally we wanted to set the film in London, but no one would talk [to us] because the subject of sexual addiction is so high-profile I think it scared people away. … We came to the States, talked to these two experts, and they in turn introduced us to people with sex addiction or recovering addicts.

Besides the obvious reasons, why are the many extended sex scenes essential to the film?

Certain things are not particularly attractive. I think, what we have to do, in a way, is look at these things to sort of gauge where we are in the world. The sex scenes, they are what they are. They're not pornographic. They're not exploitative. They're an examination of a person who's on the edge.

What do you make of Fox Searchlight's embracing of the NC-17 rating, without asking for cuts?

I'm extraordinarily grateful to Fox Searchlight for releasing the film in the United States. I imagine if it wasn't for them, most likely the film would not be released in the United States, so I'm extraordinarily grateful to them. I never had one conversation with Fox Searchlight about NC-17. I thought it was a rap band.

How has your experience showing the film in the U.S. so far impacted your sense of Americans' attitude toward sex? Do you agree that it can be somewhat puritanical?

I don't actually think that's true. That might be what people are saying, but I don't think it's true. I think people's responses to the movie already have been, for me, tremendous. [Given] the way people have responded to it and reacted to it, I don't necessarily think that's true.

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Shame director Steve McQueen Empty Re: Shame director Steve McQueen

Post by Admin on Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:47 pm

Steve McQueen: Michael Fassbender Oscar Snub Happened Because America Is 'Too Scared Of Sex'
Michael Fassbender

First Posted: 02/20/2012 8:05 am Updated: 02/20/2012 8:51 am

While dropping trou in "Shame" got Michael Fassbender a few infamous mentions (George Clooney comparing the actor's p**** to a golf club, for instance), it might have been a bit too scandalous for the Academy's taste.

Fassbender and "Shame" did not light up 2012's nominations, contrary to the critical acclaim the film received. The reason for this, according to "Shame" director Steve McQueen, was as plain as day: the Fassboner.

"In America they're too scared of sex, that's why he wasn't nominated. If you look at the best actor list you're saying, 'Michael Fassbender is not on that list?' It's kind of crazy. But that's how it is, it's an American award, let them have it."

The great Fassbender snub has not tarnished the director's view of his muse -- they have worked on two previous films together, with a third on the way -- but McQueen just wants you to know he's not like, married to the guy or anything.

"It's all about the script, if Michael's the right person for the character and if he likes the script. What I like about our relationship is it's not tied, it's not a marriage, it's friendship and it's done out of respect of each other's talents and each other's love of film."

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