FEARSmag: EQUILIBRIUM is your directorial debut.
Kurt Wimmer: Yes, it is.
FEARSmag: You've worked on a variety of stories, from
science fiction to thrillers. At its core, EQUILIBRIUM is science
fiction; but it's also blends of several other genres. Why did you
choose this particular tale for your directorial debut?
KURT WIMMER: To be candid, I wasn't in a position to pick
and choose. A producer friend of mine, Lucas Foster, offered to back me
to direct this project.
Actually, it was a bit more complicated. At the time, Lucas
was in partnership with Jan De Bont. I'd written two scripts, and he
wanted the other one for Jan to direct. Part of the deal he made was
that they would support me to direct "Librium," which was what the
screenplay was called at the time. Naturally I said, "Yes!"
FEARSmag: There are many elements in the narrative that feel
like they are inspired by a number of great cinematic and literary
science fiction stories. Some people have compared EQUILIBRIUM to
"Fahrenheit 451" and "Things to Come."I'm thinking "Metropolis," and
even the more contemporary "Gattaca." What was that original thought, a
kernel of an idea that inspired you to write this tale?
Where there any particular films you were taking your
cinematic cues from to possibly pass along to a director?
KURT WIMMER: I appreciate all the lofty comparisons, but at
the time I think I was thinking about "Judge Dread." (Laughing) I'm
All of these films, including "The Handmaiden's Tale,"
"1984," "Brave New World," these are all members of the family of great
science fiction that I drew upon to create the paradigm for this film.
I was not anticipating directing it when I began to write it. As a
writer, a deeply professional screenwriter, I generally don't put cues
in for a director. I try to limit that to the degree that I can. Having
said that, I have to admit that my original conception of the world for
this film was much different from the one I ended with. The events are
almost identical from the first to the final draft. The actual
depiction of that world was a much more expensive one.
FEARSmag: One of the great moments in EQUILIBRIUM is the
open sequence. The action gives you the impression that this is going
to be a low-tech film. However, directly following that the two
characters are driving in a car and you see the grandeur of this world
In bringing your story to the screen, do you feel the scope
was achieved more through cutting edge special effects or by having a
name like Jan De Bont as executive producer attached to the project?
KURT WIMMER: Jan, for all his strengths, can't change what
the dialogue can buy you. Our budget, which was $20 million, was what
it was. It's true that digital technology allows you to create
3-Dimensional mat paintings with greater ease. We could create these
cityscapes for this world now that would have been a lot more difficult
just a few years ago.
FEARSmag: EQUILIBRIUM has an interesting message. Over the
past two to three years we've seen the rise of reality television. The
film appears to offer audiences a wake up call from the sensory slumber
they've been lulled into by these shows, and suggests they again take
charge of their world. Is that the message of this film, is it part of
the message, or where you trying to say something else?
KURT WIMMER: Wow, I wish I could claim that was the case.
Unfortunately, the first episode of "Survivor" aired while I
was in Germany prepping this film. I had no idea what it was about, and
my only view to my homeland of America was what I could view through
the Internet. I saw this buzz about this show called "Survivor," but I
was never entirely clear on what it was about until I got back.
FEARSmag: Is EQUILIBRIUM a homage, or by combining some of
these other ideas is it more a contemporary piece?
KURT WIMMER: It is a homage in the sense that I admire those
other films. I hear this a lot. It's frustrating for me when people
suggested that it's a remake of one of those films. To me the themes of
a film like "Fahrenheit 451" are pretty clear. They were burning books
and they weren't burning art. That film was a metaphor about
McCarthyism. I see the control of art as relating strongly to our
contemporary society. It's no accident that all condemned materials in
my film are rated "EC-10," which is a reference to the MPAA. To me,
this is an entirely different issue. The topics of totalitarian worlds
are nothing more than paradigms that people like Ray Bradbury and I use
to tell a parable. We move aside our reality and create a simple
paradigm to tell a simple story.
Having said all that, it wasn't my real reason for telling
this story. For me, the most important thing is that movies are about
emotions, and not about politics. The most important element of this
film is that it is the story about a man who awakens to the sensory
world around him for the first time. It's kind of a personal story, but
that's what I wanted to convey. It was also my motivation.
FEARSmag: Given the screenplay, direction and special
effects, the other element that makes this an exceptional film is the
cast. There's Christian Bale, Emily Watson. How did they come to this
project, or how were you so lucky?
KURT WIMMER: I don't know how, but your right, I was very
lucky. The process was long. It took nine months to cast the film. It
was a brutal process because it was a small budgeted film. Also, it is
a Dimension film. No disrespect to Dimension, but they're not the first
place that first rate actors go to work. There was also the fact that I
was a first time director. It was difficult to cast the film and find
people who were good for these characters. If I have to attribute it to
anything, and I don't mean to flatter myself, it was the screenplay
that brought the talent. The script was well reviewed by an agency, and
from a casting point of view that's how it starts. When a script gets
good coverage at an agency like CAA it gets the ball rolling.
Ultimately, agencies are looking for work for their clients.
FEARSmag: You've got this great script, a great cast, and
some killer effects. You step onto the set your first day, what did you
find from your screenwriting career that prepared you the most, and the
least, to direct this film?
KURT WIMMER: I have to say that I
didn't learn a damn thing during principal photography. I learned
everything in post as I was putting the film together. It mostly had to
do with pacing. I'm certain that will influence my future writing,
especially my writing with an eye to direct a particular project.
In terms of stepping on the set the first day, there was no
connection between writing, expectation and what happened. I really
wasn't thinking about it, I was thoroughly prepared. I went onto the
set and fought the battles from dawn to dusk every day. At night I went
home and collapsed, and didn't have time to think about anything else.
FEARSmag: Many low budget and/or independent films have been
shooting outside the United States in Canada. Recently, we've seen
other productions turning to Western Europe. For example, "Resident
Evil" was shot in Germany, as was EQUILIBRIUM. How was that experienced
compared to what you've possibly experience, as a writer, on an
KURT WIMMER: As a writer, I've only visited sets on a few
occasions. However, I wasn't too familiar with them as it had never
been an emmersive experience. This was. Since I'd never shot a film in
America, it didn't have an impact on me. We also shot in Rome.
Nevertheless, the crews there were very eager, but not
nearly as schooled as a British or American crew. The dollar bought us
more, but there were additional battles that we fought in terms of
getting certain things up to speed.
FEARSmag: I've spoken to quite a few directors who've
discussed the aspect of a genre film being the perfect showcase for
their diverse abilities as directors.Given the complex nature of this
film, do you feel it gave you an opportunity to show the full spectrum
of your talent as opposed to a comedy, drama, crime drama or thriller?
KURT WIMMER: I think so. I've written many scripts that I've
really liked, but had no interest in directing them. There have been
others that I was desperate to direct. I find the common element is the
visual potential of each film. This particular film allowed me to
create, within the budget, a stylized world. It gave me something to
latch onto in terms of design. That was helpful. In terms of creating
the action, it was a strong visual element that allowed me to
understand that world as a whole. It was helpful for me, in
constructing the whole movie, to triangulate these certain elements.
FEARSmag: It terms of the overall look of the film, the
final element is the score. Because of the film's gritty science
fiction feel, I was wondering what you were looking for from the music
and why you chose Klaus Badelt to do the score?
KURT WIMMER: I am not a genius when it comes to music for
films. It was a long process of trying out temp music for the film
before I found something that I thought worked. In the beginning, I had
this fantasy of using only classical music, but that didn't work out at
all. I actually had one prominent composer, but he didn't work out and
I had to move on. I found that I was actually using some music that
Klaus had previously created for other movies, such as "Gladiator" and
"MI2," as temp music. I'm very proud that we gave Klaus his first
chance to be the composure in name.
FEARSmag: Having now directed your first feature, how do you
see your career evolving from this point on?
KURT WIMMER: First, I keep my fingers crossed and hope
someone will give me another job. After that, I would like to learn the
craft of directing, and use each film as steeping stone. Part of me
would just love to go and be Ridley Scott's assistant for a year.
However, that's not realistic. Ultimately, there are many different
models that I have and there is no limited to the size and scope of the
films I want to make. They almost all revolve around strong science
fiction or thriller ideas, and hopefully they're wrapped around a
powerful emotional core.
FEARSmag: And your next project, due out in January, is "The
Recruit." Looking toward the rest of 2003, is there anything else we
might see your name attached to?
KURT WIMMER: Currently, there's nothing in production or in
the can. Knock on wood; I'll get something going shortly as a writer,
director, or both.
FEARSmag: I'm sure as writer, there are a couple of things
currently making the rounds?
KURT WIMMER: I have, but we're
waiting until this film comes out so we can test the waters.