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Equilibrium Interview
Kurt Wimmer

 The Interview

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 just kidding.

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 you've created.

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 American set?

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.

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