Interview – Martin Koolhoven: A movie like Brimstone doesn’t exist yet (translation)

Interview-Koolhoven-Brimstone-set-Oorlogswinter-3

Even though the interview doesn’t mention Robert Pattinson, it’s still an interesting read with the director’s ideas about the movie and loads of background info. (Translation by us – please credit)

Next spring Martin Koolhoven  – finally – begins with the shooting of his highly anticipated new film Brimstone. The 45-year-old Dutchman wrote the script for the “violent and epic thriller” himself and managed to get Hollywood stars Mia Wasikowska and Guy Pearce for the main roles. Filmpjekijken.com invited Koolhoven to a lunch with the hope to get some more news about his international debut. That worked.

READ MORE AFTER THE JUMP!

In December 2012 you spoke extensively with filmpjekijken.com about Brimstone. Why has it taken you over two years before you could finally start producing?
– First there was the huge job of getting the funding together and then I started casting. I sent the script to various agencies in Hollywood. But I just didn’t manage to get a meeting. I was constantly told they were going to look at it ‘next week, we’ll read it next week.” That weird guy with the beard from the Netherlands was simply not taken seriously.

How did jou manage to get a meeting eventually?
– Producer Nik Powell, a friend of my partner Els Vandevorst, had read the script, was thrilled and immediately offered his help. “You have to ask for a good casting director,” he said and gave me a list of names. One of them I found very interesting: Des Hamilton, who also assisted other European directors as Lars Von Trier and Nicolas Winding Refn. “This is the best script I’ve read in a decade,” Des told me. “I want to do this job, but not one or two characters. All Of them ‘.

What happened next was incredible. Des told me: ‘I’m going to Hollywood, give your script to the four largest agencies and I guarantee that the next day they’ll be calling you non stop.” It were the same agencies that I myself already had approached, so I thought, ‘yeah sure, not gonna happen.” But what Des predicted, literally happened. Agents called me personally to advertise their clients for the film. Only after Des had approached them, they read the script of course. You need to have the guts to be cocky at a time like this, and I have said ‘no’ to some really big names. But I simply found that they did not fit the roles. Or they were too old.

Who are we talking about here?
– I’m not going to tell names, that’s not a nice thing to do. Besides, I told the agents no and I have no idea if the actors and actresses involved even know of the existence of Brimstone.

That weird guy with the beard from the Netherlands was suddenly ‘the talk of Tinseltown’.
– I was called by agent Hylda Queally, one of the most important women in Hollywood. She wanted to represent me with Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Only she doesn’t normally represent directors. They therefore suggested to do it together with Craig Gering, the agent of Darren Aronofsky (Noah), Roland Emmerich (White House Down), Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Nebraska) and Sam Raimi (Oz The Great and Powerful) to name a few. Hylda and Craig told me: “Call whoever you want, we’ll arrange everything.” That’ll leave you a bit stunned really.

Did you have your eyes set on Guy Pearce en Mia Wasikowska right from the start?
– I had already made lists for Des with the names of 3 actors and 2 actresses that I really wanted for the main parts. Even before I named my preferences, agents of 2 of the 3 actors were showing their interest in my project.

That’s when I made my final decision to chose Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Memento, Iron Man 3), ever since The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert I’m a fan of him. He has done so many different and varied roles already. Mia Wasikowski (Stoker, The Double, Tracks) was also my first choice, even when the other actress on my list really wanted to do the part as well.

In december you tweeted:

Who was that?
– Guy Pearce. He said to me: ‘whatever happens, this is the movie I’m going to do next year’. He is very involved and enthusiastic. Look – Koolhoven shows pictures of the actor on his phone – he’s constantly sending me pictures like these and asking ‘what do you think of this look?’ Besides that he’s already working hard on getting the accent right.

What kind of movie is it going to be?
– It is going to be an epic film set in different time periods. A dark and violent story, but also a juicy adventure. In terms of story I dare say there is no movie like Brimstone, it doesn’t resemble anything you’ve already seen. Told in a way you’ve never seen before. It’s not a classic western, but only takes place in the same time, at the end of the 19th century, set in the western United States. Though it retains certain elements of earlier films. The Night of the Hunter, to name but a few, for example, have been a source of inspiration for me. For the first time I have written something that really really suits me and the kind of movie I want to make. But it’s also a movie I don’t really see happen in a Dutch setting.

What’s your budget?
– I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell, but we expect to have a budget of about ten million. Not all the funding is done yet, so it may change. Right now, our British sales agent Embankment in Berlin is also talking with foreign buyers for the film. Let’s make a wide assumption: I think I will have a budget of somewhere between eight and eleven million euros.

That’s a hefty sum…
– For Dutch standards it is, but internationally, it certainly is not a very large budget. That it’s such an expensive film, is mainly because of the number of shooting days. We’re expecting to need about seventy; not something that’s usual anymore these days. In comparison, in the Netherlands, you shoot a normal film in twenty, thirty days. But I think I need them. And of course I had a long enough period to rest, haha.

You have already announced to film in Canada and Europe. Why not in the United States?
For a number of reasons. First, America is not very cheap. Additionally, you have to deal with unions which can be a problem. Finally, the scenery is looking increasingly less as the old West. So we move to Alberta in Canada. I can record the entire movie there, but that is very expensive. So we’re looking at other, cheaper locations. In Spain and Romania are also some great locations. South Africa was also an option, but then you are required to take a South African cameraman or art director or something. We investigated that, especially because it would give us some financial benefits. But I found that those people just were not good enough.

How did you eventually end up with your Belgian cameraman Nicolas Karakatsanis?
When I saw Rundskop, I already knew I wanted him. After I had let him read the script, he immediately said ‘yes’ and he made The Drop and Cub after that. To be able to do Brimstone he has canceled a number of big films. Purely because he desperately wants to do this movie with me.

You’ve announced two big Australian lead actors, are we going to see some Dutch actors as well?
– There will definitely be some Dutch actors and actresses as well in Brimstone. Although I don’t know how many yet. They’re going to be in leading parts as well, even though the characters played by Guy and Mia are very much bigger than any other part. Other deals with other actors and actresses aren’t set yet, otherwise we’d have announced those names as well.

N279, the production company you’re running together with Els Vandevorst, is de producer of Brimstone. Wasn’t there pressure from Hollywood to use an American producer?
– If we’d wanted we could’ve gotten the entire financing for making Brimstone right from the US.

But then you’d have to have to do everything they’d told you?
– Exactly, so that’s the reason we chose to do it this way. I want to have control, no matter what. In the past I was able to go to the US to make movies, but not in the way I wanted to make them. Or I just had the feeling that it wasn’t good for me to do at that time.

Americans are, especially concerning movie making, used to far less than us Europeans. Did you have to make concessions regarding the original script?
There are certain ideas and atrocities in it that will make some people nervous. At the same time it really speaks to them as well, because it is obvious that it is not exploitation, but really a functional part for the story. Until now they’re leaving me [and the script] alone. Though there certainly have been people who eventually did not dare to invest money in the film because of some of the very shocking scenes.

Did you ever doubt if Brimstone would become a reality?
No, I always had faith in it. Everybody that read the script was thrilled. Maybe I was a bit early with announcing my plans for Brimstone. There was a kind of vibe of: ‘there’s that Koolhoven with his big mouth’. And there were loads of jokes about the fact that I hadn’t made a movie in years.

But that’s true. Oorlogswinter (Winter in Wartime) premiered in 2008…
– That I didn’t make a movie in all those years was a very conscious choice. I didn’t want to be distracted while I was writing the script for Brimstone. At first I thought it [the writing] would go faster that way, although in the end it took me far longer than I expected. Besides, I really need the focus. I was fortunate to be able to do it like this. If I’d be going hungry it would’ve been a different story of course. I would have to direct some soap series as a matter of speech.

You were able to live off of Oorlogswinter (Winter in Wartime) for 6 years?
– As a matter of fact yes, but I don’t lead a very luxurious life. And my girlfriend (Tallulah Schwab, red.) has made Dorsvloer Vol Confetti and the wonderful youth series Taart. At that time I was the househusband.

Was Oorlogswinter (Winter in Wartime) your last Dutch movie?
– Not necessarily no, I still have some ideas for a Dutch movie placed in Indonesia for which I’m writing with Willem Bosch (Feuten het Feestje, Bellicher: Cel). And there are several books I’d like to turn into a movie. But I don’t have to feel too small to make a movie with whomever I want to. If I want to make an English movie with a big name, I no longer have to think ‘I won’t succeed’.

How is your English by the way? Did you visit the nuns [to learn English]
– Not yet, but that’s about to happen. Right before I start shooting I’m going to visit some type of bootcamp with them. They already told me they wouldn’t be able to teach me very much. I’m not insecure about my English but I just want to feel 100% comfortable. To be able to understand everything that’s being said when we’re on set.

In the meantime it’s been 7 years since you’ve been on a filmset. It’ll probably will take some getting used to?
– Weird actually, since I love being on set. That’s when I truly feel more alive than I normally do. A while ago I was on a set for the first time in years to shoot a few commercials for the government. Just to get some practice again. At that moment I instantly realised that it was a while ago that I’ve been there. But you know, it’s just like riding a bike or having sex: you never forget how to do it.

source: Filmpjekijken.com | translation by us (please credit)


Posted February 9, 2015 by Sim in Brimstone

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