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netribution > features > interview with joel hopkins > page two

Is it the case that you now won't be able to cast him again?
He wants to get back to his animation and he's not rushing to find more acting work. I think he would definitely do it again. I don't know how versatile he is yet, he could train more I guess, I wrote that part with him in mind. I mean he's definitely not George, but there's some George in him.

The character's hail from all over the place and the location was pretty hard to pin down, did you deliberately deny the audience those typical reference points?
One of the initial ideas of the film was a storybook, like a pop up storybook for grown- ups. I wanted it slightly dislocated from reality, in terms of time and place I didn't want us to say this New York City, 1999. Then, in the same way, I also wanted the characters a little displaced. They are sort characters, they're national stereotypes really, but then hopefully we get inside to the real emotions. I think it would have fell flat if they had remained characters. This was just an idea, I don't quite no why, it's just a style that influenced a lot of the decisions.

It turns into a road movie at one point, which seems to fit their displacement.
Its very unromantic, but as you are sitting there trying to write your script, the road movie gives you two fantastic things. 1. It gives you a car, a confined space where objects are going to be forced to interact. That's what I'm always looking for, environments where people who are different are forced to confront each other. The drama and the comedy, so I hijacked the road movie for that purpose. 2. It gives you this natural propulsion, it moves the story forward. As a screenwriter you are desperately looking for things like that. I do like the genre of the road movie, but it wasn't my passion, it wasn't my tribute to the genre. It was less romantic than that and more practical.

George is a bumbling character, vocally and in his actions. Typically you end up with a Basil Fawlty, sort of schadenfreude thing happening, but that didn't happen?
In some ways there is strength in his silence. In the short he is more frozen, more deer in headlights nervous. It came clear in the feature that the silence is more out of choice perhaps and I think there is some strength in that. In some ways Gérard is a lot further from sorting himself out. It's a nice balance between these two characters, one needs to come down a bit and one needs to come up a bit.

Those awkward silences, were you aware that they might be have us cringing too much?
It's a fine line between…I'm sure for some people it's not going to be their cup of tea and it is going to be a bit cringey. It's a balance you're trying to find. I guess on the page, when you write it you get a bit nervous because it is a lot of like,
'How are you?'
'Fine. You?'
It doesn't make for a great read. I think there's sincerity to it that you can't help but buy into it. I understand it's a fine line, it's a very easy to tread the wrong path. I saw Together quite recently, not to compare my movie, I think It's a terrific movie, but I was aware of his writing, he is definitely walking close to that line and for me he pulls it off.

Gérard's is the antithesis of a French New Wave hero and yet that seems his stereotype.
Characteristically, it became obvious in the short that it's fine if your protagonist is very passive, you can get away with it. But in the feature I was struggling with such a passive need. It became very clear that I needed to team him up with an opposite, someone who was going to prod George throughout the movie and force him to react, that's how the extrovert came about. It just seemed that, living in New York you're conscious of this Eurotrash label. Rich, slightly wealthy European kid coming over to New York. Gérard originally wasn't as old as he is in the film, he was younger, but when I started to think of him older it became even more poignant. Time's running out and he can only keep running for so long, so his character became more poignant. Where the idea for his character came from, I don't know, his father made a fortune selling toilet rolls or something and Gérard is the generation, he's burnt all his bridges in Paris and ended up in New York. That's his back story. He seemed quite clear, he actually wrote himself. You're dealing with extremes in both George and Gérard but they write themselves, especially Gérard, quite easily. He can say and do outrageous things, it's always slightly an opposite to what George might be doing, it's a nice character to write.

Visually it's very clean and linear. Is it the case that you or your DP have some sort of design or architectural background?
My parents are architects, I grew up in a glass house with lots of right angles, so I'm sure that's had an effect. I enjoy design, I enjoy architecture and that was a focus in a lot of films that we used for inspiration and references, we looked at Jacques Tati, in a lot of them its man against his environment. I think it's Playtime when he goes to some sort of industry show, a modern home show. A lot of physical comedy derives from man against his environment, man against his surroundings. The backdrop is often quite clean, I think it's in order we enjoy the physicality, enjoy the character within it.

Was there any influence from Andreas Gursky?
I would say for me, more Jim Jaramusch than Gursky, but I know, those are great images of…

…those bleak skies especially.
Yeah and then is it The Rain? There's one where he's had the grey sky, green bank, grey river, green bank. Having said that I did go with my DP, there happened to be a Gursky on, not the big one out recently, a small one at a Chelsea gallery here. Very early in the day I took Patrick to have a look at that, so you're right.

Great, I like that.
Mustn't forget Jim Jaramusch though! (laughter)

The pace of the film really hit me. It's a sort of sit back, relax and giggle sort of film. I was definitely expecting a degree of serious tension towards the end as the stories came together, which didn't happen. When I left the cinema, someone commented that had happened, the film would have appeared more commercial.
Did you feel unsatisfied?

Absolutely not, I hadn't had much work to do, but I'd done a lot of laughing, so I suppose I was very happy.
Well again, going back to the script, you're trying to make it work, particularly when dealing with such a well-trodden genre - the romantic comedy and the race to get the girl. My idea was to say, well we all know he's going to get the girl, but it's how? Let's celebrate how he gets her. So I wasn't too scared of things like the race to the border, in a way I was trying to heighten it, with it being a border crossing rather than, I don't know, an airport or something. Literally, she's leaving the country, and it's a ridiculous border, again it's a sort of storybook border, maybe something out of WW2 or something. A lot of people have commented on why they don't they kiss at the end.

Yes, I was about to ask.
Being with them in a telephone booth at the end

As well as being ridiculous it's quite a beautiful scene really.
I like it, I didn't feel like a kiss was appropriate.

I wondered how it could actually happen in the first place
I don't think they were there yet, they're snogging right now, but the pace is so crucial with comedy. When I watched an assembly of this movie, I was terribly depressed, comedy is one of the last things to fall into pace when you're editing. I think it relies so much on pace and when you cut out of a scene and get you into the next one it keeps up the energy. So I didn't get a good sense of it until we were editing and it began to take shape.

It must have been pretty nerve wracking?
Yeah, I did a small screening very early on, it was a very comfy, forty seater cinema and there were just no laughs whatsoever. It's a hard one to read, there are some laugh out loud moments, but quite often you hear people say I had a smile on my face for a large majority of the movie and it's not a Something About Mary.

You're laughing to the silences though.
I think so, it's harder to judge though, laughter can become very addictive and you're sort of like… I don’t know what I'm talking about, what were we talking about?

I don't know. (laughter) What do you think about commercial success over here? Do you think it's a hit and miss film in that it'll fall flat for some people and for others, like myself, we'll find it hilarious?
The hope in America was that people would be interested in because it does potentially straddle, I guess a commercial, romantic comedy genre. Then I guess the hope was that it would attract a more hip crowd and the ideal is that you capture both these audiences or the flip slide is that you end up alienating both. I think it's a very hard film to market.

I actually think it's got core qualities, it's very far away from it's genre.
The thing is obviously the distributors want to capture that much bigger romantic comedy audience, the danger is that it's tried and tested, the people who go and see romantic comedies go and see them because they've got Julia Robert in. In America we had very good reviews, but ultimately I don't think they got the marketing right. So I'm hoping that in the UK it will have a life.

What are you doing now?
I'm working on another script I'm writing for FilmFour, which I hope to direct. I would say it's further tales of neurotic men, the relationship between two guys, best friends since childhood, both a bit neurotic and it's a ghost story as well.

Jump Tomorrow is currently out on genral release in the UK

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