Lane Garrison with Showbiz Junkies and Starry Constellation Magazine
The new audio clips are below, in Peter Sattler's interview with NRP.
Q: Did you know Kristen Stewart before working with her on this project? Had you met before?
Payman: I knew that Kristen Stewart played in the Twilight films and is a very successful actress, but I heard that recently she wanted to steer away from those kinds of roles and take on more serious ones.
Our story began a few months ago when Peter Sattler sent me a script while I was in Iran. Because I am someone who is currently writing my own scripts, in this respect of reading scripts I am very critical. I really liked this one.
One day, he came on Skype, as I had known talked to him before. We had a lengthy discussion about the script and after an hour and he said that Kristen wanted to speak to me. Kristen and I spoke a few days later and she said that she didn’t sleep well the night before as she watched A Separation, because the film deeply affected her. She liked the film and my performance, and we continued talking.
The following week, I came to America, where I went to Peter Sattler’s house and met with Kristen along with Lane Garrison, who played in Prison Break.
Q: What did you talk about there?
Payman: Kristen said she knew a lot about me, including that I performed in a play written by the late Samuel Beckett. The more I spoke with her, I realized that she has a lot of knowledge about theater and books, and I appreciated that. We talked about the characters in Camp X-Ray and we would talk every day, over lunches and dinners.
Q: Also in the press notes, he says he cast you because he saw the chemistry between you and Kristen Stewart when the two of you Skyped.
Payman: The next night the three of us met on Skype for about forty-five minutes because Kristen wanted to meet me. Then she said she wanted to see A Separation. She got a DVD and watched it and said she loved it.
Q: So she hadn’t seen your films yet?
Payman: To be honest, I had never seen Twilight or any of her movies before. I knew of her because I know actors, but then she wasn’t making my kind of films. Now she is. I assumed those other films were good for other fans and had no prejudgment about her. I saw her the first time at Peter’s home in Los Angeles and she was more than friendly. She came to me and said, “I’m very happy to work with you.” I asked Peter if Cole’s hair color will be blond or dark because in the movie, Ali always calls her “Blondie.” He said dark, like Kristen’s natural color. He asked me what I thought about that. I said I loved it. To Ali, all American girls are “Blondie.” That’s funny.
Q: What’s great is that Cole accepts being called “Blondie.” You and Kristen come from two different parts of the world, you have made different kinds of movies, her acting is very low-key while you are expressive and verbal. I do think it paid off for creating two different characters that you were so different as actors.
Payman: Kristen said, “Let’s rehearse and talk. Tell me about your style of working or let’s create something together.” People come to me and ask, “How is she on the set? Is she friendly at all?” And she is. She was very thoughtful, very hard-working, full of energy, very eager to do something great. She was never satisfied with whatever she did, she was always asking for another take, saying “Let’s do it the other way.” I liked that very much. It was very, very important to me because most of my performance was dependent on my partner. It was all dialogue between Kristen and me, it was like ping pong. I couldn’t be a good actor unless I had a good partner in this film. So I was glad we rehearsed a lot trying different versions.
Q: Did you talk to Kristen about what her character’s reactions were supposed to be in response to Ali’s imprisonment at Guantanamo and all the different ways he communicates with Cole?
Payman: I asked her what she was thinking about. She was thinking a lot about these issues and about her character every day and she would tell Peter and me if she thought her character should react differently from what we had planned. And Peter would say, “That’s true.” And I’d say, “Kristen, can you do it for me because I need to know what I must do if you change your reaction like that.” I’d say, “If you change something here, then we have to also change that other action.” Peter would say, “Payman is a screenwriter and he remembers everything.”
Q: So was Peter accepting changes from each of you?
Payman: More than other directors I’ve worked with here, he’s like Ashar Farhadi in that he leaves you to do whatever you want to do, minimize it or maximize it, and observes you to see what worked and what didn’t work. He didn’t talk to us and say for us to do this or that, which happens a lot in America. For him, performance comes first, then the camera.
Q: Did you rehearse in the same place you shot the film?
Payman: We rehearsed and filmed at a former juvenile detention center [in Whittier, Ca.] that looked almost exactly like Guantanamo. We did this because sometimes you get surprised when you move from one location to another. At the prison we rehearsed for two or three days with closed doors. We wanted to determine what we could hear if the doors were closed between us. I didn’t have much space and Kristen didn’t have much space so there weren’t so many things we could do.
Q: Even during, I imagine you sat close to each other.
Payman: We found some rooms and we tried to stay very close, to get used to the small space. I wanted to watch Kristen very closely to make sure nothing was exaggerated. When you are close, you use your eyes to see all parts of a face. There’s big meaning in how the eyes go up or down or to the sides. We asked Peter to watch these things through the camera lens during the final days of rehearsal.
Q: Were you told you would watch dailies?
Payman: I never developed the habit of seeing dailies, but for this film we had to do it because of the close shots. We needed to see when we moved our eyes how big the movement was. When I made my own film I didn’t let any of the actors watch dailies. And the result was good. But after this experience, when I make another film I will definitely show some dailies and rushes to my actors.
Q: What were those last days of preproduction like?
Payman: In the mornings we rehearsed or did a table reading and then we were through as actors. Peter was going to the set to make sure everything was ready and I would go with him whenever I had a chance. He was working on other things and I had nothing else to do, so I asked him, “Can I stay in the prison by myself.” One cell was ready and I decided to go inside and stay there for hours. He said, “Yes, but do you want me to leave the door open?’ I said, “No, close the door.” Peter said, “We’ll be working over there, so whenever you want to come out let us know.” I stayed in there over a few days and it was very helpful. Peter also asked Kristen to walk around the hallway outside the cells and she would do it for hours, as Cole would. It helped me a lot, knowing she was outside. I was in a very small room, all Ali has in this world. There were no other tools I had as an actor, but no matter how small the room was you find a variety of things around me.
There was just a small window looking out into the hall, so if I moved my head to the left or right while filming, I was out of the frame. So I’m in there thinking, what can I do? If I go to the back of the cell and shout it sounds low but if I walk toward the door shouting it’s totally different.
Q: It will surprise many people to see Kristen Stewart starring in a low-budget film against the inhumane treatment of Muslims at Guantanamo Bay. Do you think it is important that Cole is a female, to contrast her even more with Ali?
Payman: It makes it more interesting. I think it separates them more. Cole could be a male and I think Peter wrote that character as a male. I like that it’s a female and man and their relationship isn’t sexual. It’s not about opposites attracting. Before we were shooting we received a book two-inches thick, DVDs, photos, and links for Internet research. I saw documentaries on Guatanamo and trials with lawyers talking about the prison and the issues. I spent hours doing research and saw that the movie is very precise and correct about everything. Everything in the movie is similar to how it really is in Guantanamo Bay. And there are female guards.
Q: A lot of this film has to do with how Americans, the guards in this case, are naive about politics and who the detainees really are. All these soldiers are young and Ali is more educated than any of them. The danger Peter surely wanted to avoid was having it seem to viewers that Cole is just a naive prison guard who attracted to a smarter, more worldly prisoner, whether it’s in Guantanamo or any prison, and he manipulates her. But we don’t think that because Cole gets closer to Ali as she becomes less naive about the situation. There’s a learning process with her, while none of the other soldiers want to learn anything and stay naive about the detainees.
Payman: We are watching only American soldiers, not American citizens. They are young and maybe that’s why they are so naive. They aren’t interested in books. Soldiers have a lot of things to do so maybe they don’t have time to read. Ali has nothing to do but read. He says, “Each time the new guards arrive, they treat us like bad guys.” She says a good thing to him, that the other guards “will learn.” Like she has. That is not a small thing for him. Earlier he asked her, “What did you learn?”
Q: When he says that to her he’s skeptical that she’s learned anything.
Payman: Very skeptical. He asks her what she learned from such things as the hunger strikes?
Q: She does learn and opens up to him. I would think you shot this film chronologically because of how they both change and their relationship evolves.
Payman: We had to. It was very helpful for Ali and Cole to gradually become connected to each other. Indoor and outdoor scenes could be filmed chronologically because everything was shot at the juvenile facility. The outdoor shower scene and the scene where I kick the soccer ball were dependent on how the weather was. Doing it chronologically was very beneficial.
Q: Do you think your two characters start reacting positively toward each other at the same time?
Payman: I can’t say that. From the beginning, Ali is studying her. I don’t know when exactly he realizes she is not a bad person. After she says, “I’ll try,” and he says, “I’ll try, too,” he tries not to be bad toward her. In the first days Peter and I were talking about my character, and he said that what is very important for you to understand is that this guy can be the nicest character on the earth, with a soft voice, and ten seconds later he can be acting like an animal. They treat him like an animal there, making him act like a mad man. They want to dehumanize him. In some scenes, you can see that he’s trying to make a connection to Cole and tries to be nice but when she doesn’t respond, he starts shouting and cursing.
Q: Is he really that mad at her or is he just trying to get a reaction from her?
Payman: No, he’s not trying to get a reaction. He is disappointed that she is the same as the other guards, like the other Americans. He is mad at her. He says, “You think we’re the terrorists but you are the bad people. You are trying to show yourself to the world as good people by putting us here, torturing us, and doing all these things to us. But you know what? You are the bad people.”
Q: In such scenes Ali is extremely frustrated and angry, and Cole is trying not to lose him and trying to make him understand, without saying it, that she cares and is listening. They seem like hard scenes to play.
Payman: Again, Peter cared about our performances and trusted us completely but he knew what he didn’t want. He’d explain to us what wasn’t right because of this or that. He’d say, “Don’t use that word,” or “Don’t shout when you want to say this.” I remember his reluctance when we filmed a very intense scene in which Ali says that the detainees are being treated like animals. I started shouting and making sounds of tigers and dogs. Peter came to me the second day and said, “You know what? Do it a little bit lower.” I thought back to when we first Skyped and said, “I told you I’m loud!”
Q: Talk about the emotions you were having as filming was coming to an end.
Payman: The ending scenes were the last scenes we shot. It was very hard and very dependent on the situation that they prepared for us on the set. I was very happy with the situation but I asked something from Peter as well. I asked for two minutes before every scene was shot, to just be by myself. When they said, “We’re ready,” I needed two or three minutes in total silence in the cell to focus. I even told Peter before one or two scenes not to ask me if I was ready but to see through the lens if I looked ready. The circumstances on the set were very important for such emotional scenes.
Q: Did you or Kristen cry during the making of this movie?
Payman: A lot. That’s a good thing that you ask. The final days I cried for 48 hours. In every take I was crying. Kristen was standing behind the camera and she was crying every time. That’s why I can tell you that she was a lovely partner. She was helping me a lot. Whenever I was standing behind the camera watching her, I was crying for her, too.
Q: Were you both crying for the same reasons?
PM: Yes. We didn’t talk about it with each other. When the shot was done, each of us found our corners. We didn’t go to each other say, “That was good, that was great.” Never.
Q: That’s interesting because I would have thought that when playing roles that take such a toll on you that you’d want your costar to come over and comfort you.
Payman: No, no, we didn’t do that at all. Sometimes I’d see Peter from afar and his facial expressions told me his reaction. Sometimes I want to see reactions, but I usually don’t want to watch people after takes, I don’t want to see the reaction of the crew. I don’t want to see the camera, I don’t want to see anybody. I just want to be the lone person on the planet. If you want to play a detainee at Guantanamo you have to delete everyone else around from your mind. You can’t go to anyone and ask, “How was it? How did I do?” Kristen was like that too.
Q: At one point, Cole starts being punished by her superiors for associating with Ali, just as Ali is being punished by them as well for being insubordinate. Did you, Kristen, and Peter talk about the parallels?
Payman: We were aware what was happening but we didn’t talk about it that much. Kristen and I tried to stay as close as we could to the characters we were playing and they don’t speak to each other about such issues. Amy Cole and Ali don’t talk about what is happening with Amy. She doesn’t tell him. We tried to avoid talking about what was happening in the scenes we weren’t in. I do remember asking Kristen, “How did it go yesterday when you shot the scene with Cole’s superior officer?” She told me that John Carroll Lynch was brilliant in that scene. That’s about the level we went to, talking about those scenes. We didn’t go through them and discuss their meanings. We didn’t have to.
Q: There are usually not a lot of words being said between Cole and Ali, so was there telepathy?
Payman: What comes to mind is when he says, “I just want to know how all these things end,” and she asks, “The book?” And he says, “Yes, the book.” Then he says, “You know what I mean.” They were definitely talking about something else. In the rehearsal, we did a lot of improvisations for some scenes. And for that scene we talked for about five minutes about the book, but both Kristen and I, like our characters, were talking about something else. It would be impossible for Ali to say all that is in his mind, so there are metaphors.
Q: In an interview about Melbourne, you were asked about what happens after the movie ends. And you answered that you didn’t think about what happens, that you wanted to play in the moment. But in Camp X-Ray, your character wants to know how things will end. Is it healthy for your character to think about endings, or does he have to go day by day so he won’t go crazy?
Payman: No, he doesn’t. All these years he has been going day by day but also thinking what’s going to happen at the end. That’s very logical and reasonable thing for a detainee there.
Q: He even wants to know the ending of the last Harry Potter book, which he can’t get a copy of.
Payman: That’s a beautiful metaphor for that. It’s funny and meaningful. I say funny because the whole situation is funny. It’s not only that he reads the final book and knows how it ends, it’s also that he becomes hopeful for his future. He sees the light at the end of the tunnel, I think. He’s now happy to know that there are good people in this world, not all Americans are bad guys and they don’t consider them bad guys. The best thing in the world for him is what she says, not the freedom. She’s an American and probably the last person on the planet who would say that he’s a good guy. But she says, “You’re a good guy.”
Q: You may not have thought of this but the reason he wants to read the end of the book is to find out if Snape is a good guy or bad guy.
Payman: Yeah, the twist of the character. I didn’t see any of the Harry Potter movies but I was told that Snape turns from a bad guy to a good guy.
Q: Your character and Snape are seen wrongly until the end. Peter snuck in that clever idea.
Payman: I believe that. One reason Peter and I get along and communicate so well is that we are both film buffs. I’m sure he has seen all the Harry Potter movies.
Q: I get teary-eyed thinking about when he opens the newly-arrived library book, the final Harry Potter book that he has waited two years to read, and there is an inscription from Cole ending with “Love, Blondie.” The shot of the book is an insert, but when you looked at that in your hand, what was your reaction?
Payman: I cried. When I saw Camp X-Ray at Sundance I expected to see me crying. Because we did about ten shots and in eight of them I was crying. Each time we did that scene, it was like a emotional faucet being turned on and off. If there were twenty more takes it would have been the same, crying at the very same moment. But I like the version Peter used.
Q: When you first read the script, did you have a big reaction to reading, “Love, Blondie?”
Payman: Yes, I did. I was surprised. That was one of those moments when I thought I’d like to share the movie with people. That was a very lovely thing. She tells him her real first name but still signs the book that way. “I don’t know if Snape is a good guy, but I know you are. Love, Blondie.” Amazing.
Q: It’s a movie moment I won’t forget. I get choked up talking about it.
Payman: The same here. Peter is very kind, thoughtful, giving, supportive, and emotional. He cares a lot about these issues, he loves people, he cares about the relationships between people. A line like that would have to come out of a person such as Peter.
Q: Another huge scene late in the movie is when Ali considers suicide. In the conversations you had with Peter and Kristen, I would think you had to convince yourself that Ali shouldn’t kill himself.
Payman: Yeah. We knew about it from the script but we didn’t talk about the suicide scene more than a day before we shot it. We did a lot of rehearsing for the movie but we didn’t rehearse that scene and did it in the moment. We didn’t want to be self-conscious of what we were doing, we wanted it to be natural. There’s a scene in A Separation, when my character is showering his father who has Alzheimer’s and he starts crying. We didn’t rehearse or talk about that scene either. We were filming another scene but lost the light so we figured out what scene we could without light. The shower scene. Everyone expected me to say hell no because I didn’t have any preparation. I said to give it a try. And we did it on the first take.
Q: So you think it was a good idea not to prepare for the suicide scene?
Payman: Very much. I told Peter, “Just tell me what you want and where the camera will be.” We did several takes and each time we changed something. We didn’t rehearse or talk about the way he’d do it that much. The first time I saw the tool was when they gave it to me during the scene. The knife came out of the Koran and I said, “Oh, my god.”
Q: He’s been in Guantanamo for eight years. Do you think he’d done this before?
Payman: Trying to kill himself, no. I don’t think so. There was a line in the script that isn’t in the film. I’m happy it’s not in the film but it was very interesting. He tells Cole that if she calls the medics with her radio it will take them three minutes to arrive. Because he went to the university and is smart, he can calculate that it will take him two minutes to die. So don’t even think of making the call. That’s why she puts the radio down. That was logical.
Q: Talk about when she puts her hand through the window in his door, takes the blade, and touches his arm. It’s not just two people touching. It’s an American woman touching a Muslim from the Mideast. It’s a major thing for Ali to allow himself to be touched by a her.
Payman: We did it in totally different ways. Peter, who is a very talented director, decided to do something minimal, not showing my face or Kristen’s face that much. I’m not in the shot. Only my hand is in the shot, and I love that shot. He didn’t want to do it this way but this was a shot that was supposed to be mixed with other shots. But he looked at dailies and just used that. That’s the magic of movies.
Q: Were you staying in character?
Payman: Very much.
Q: What was Ali thinking of at that moment?
Payman: Trust. That’s extreme trust. She puts her hand through the hole in the door and the knife is in his hand, it’s a really big thing. He puts the tool in her hand, then she grabs his hand. It’s a really beautiful scene and it’s the ultimate way of showing that two people can connect and trust each other by communicating and listening to each other.
Q: That’s the reason for the movie.
Payman: That’s true.
Q: You shot that scene a long time ago, but when you think of it now, do you get watery-eyed?
Payman: I do. Everything starts with throwing out prejudgments that this is a bad guy and Americans are bad guys and that Americans and Middle Easterners have nothing in common to talk about. When you start talking you see that you’re that different and can learn from each other. That’s what happens at the end of the movie. It’s very beautiful when she brings up the story of her seeing a lion in the zoo. The result was that she though the zoo people must let the lion decide whether to stay or be let loose in the unfamiliar wild. If you want to kill yourself I will give you the space to do it. At the beginning of the film, the chief guard tells the new guards that they are not there to prevent the detainees from living, the walls do that. They are there to prevent the detainees from dying because that would cause a big scandal. So they want to prevent them from killing themselves. When she leaves, she gives the right to Ali to decide to kill himself or not.
Q: I agree with that. But is there something more? Because he talks about how no country will take him if he were released.
Payman: Yes, because he was in Guantanamo as a terrorist.
Q: I’m thinking that she is saying release Ali even if he doesn’t have ideal options on the outside.
Payman: I don’t know. In her own way, she tries to stop him. She proves she isn’t naive when she asks him he wants to kill himself to become a martyr and go to heaven. She asks smart questions. She hopes she has had enough impact on him that he won’t kill himself. And she did.
Q: The reason that it is better that he doesn’t kill himself is that she truly believes things will change and he’ll get out. If she believed that he’d forever be imprisoned I’m not sure she’d be so motivated to keep him alive.
Payman: That’s true. When you think about it, that makes sense.
Q: So the shooting ends, the movie wrap, and it’s all over.
Payman: Those last few days were very tough and amazing. Then Peter spent a couple of days on extra shots without the actors. And two or three days after the crew had finished, there was a wrap party. I came shaved and in a suit. I wasn’t aware that I looked different because that was myself. Every person was, “Oh, my good, look at you. You don’t look like a detainee anymore!” I surprised everyone.
END SPOILER ALERT
Q: You filmed this a year ago, so what’s it like getting together with everyone now to promote the film?
Payman: I avoid talking about the film. I believe that whatever I wanted to say I said in the film. And the worst part, especially for a director, is to attach explanation to what you did. If fans ask for explanations I don’t get irritated because we made the film for an audience. Once the film is done, it’s not in your hands anymore.
Q: I know you want people to ask you, as I ask you, Do you still think of Ali sitting in that cell?
Payman: Nobody has asked that yet. As the credits run at the end of the film, you see the guards walking in the small hall between the cells for about five minutes. It’s telling you that the prisoners are still there and life goes on there.
Q: In the production notes, Peter Sattler says, “It’s not a political film; it’s a deeply human one.” I don’t agree. Often filmmakers will say their very political films aren’t political because they don’t want to scare away American moviegoers. But if we look at the human element and we start identifying with the people who are imprisoned at Guantanamo, then we start asking what can be done for them, including closing the facility–and at that point it becomes political.
Payman: That’s 100% true. That’s good to hear. I agree with you. You cannot say it’s not a political film. When you say “Guantanamo Bay,” you’re talking about politics. When you say “terrorist” or “suspected terrorist,” you’re talking about politics. The focus is not on the political issues and that’s what Peter was trying to get across. But we can’t escape from the fact that there are political things in the movie and after you leave the theater you will think about the situation in the United States that has kept Guantanamo from closing.
Q: Were you surprised that in the United States you could make Camp X-Ray?
Payman: I was surprised. You couldn’t make such a film in Iran. I’m very happy to see that’s it’s possible to make films like Camp X-Ray today.
Sooooo good, thoughtful, interesting interview!
Laughed at the Blondie thing, we've wondered the same.
• with NPR + NEW audio clips (at 0:33 & 4:06) from the movie
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There's a new movie out next week, "Camp X-Ray." It goes inside the Guantanamo Bay prison camp amid reports this week that it might be closed. But the film is not a documentary. It stars Kristen Stewart, but it's nothing like "Twilight." She plays a U.S. military guard who's just been stationed at Guantanamo. And though she's cautioned, this is a war zone, they were here before you were in high school and they will test you and best you, she lets one detainee - number 471 - get to her. He's played by Peyman Moaadi, an Iranian actor.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CAMP X-RAY")
PEYMAN MOAADI: (As Ali Amir) You don't like to talk? Always is like that. Why? I don't know why you guys - you don't like to talk with us. You and us - we are both stuck here. It is boring for both of us.
KRISTEN STEWART: (As Amy Cole) You and me got nothing to say to each other.
SIMON: This is the first feature film from the writer and director Peter Sattler. He joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.
PETER SATTLER: Thank you for having me.
SIMON: I have to begin with an industry question. What is the pitch meeting like when you walk in and say, OK, I've got a great idea - Guantanamo?
SATTLER: Well, that's the thing you know, this is an independent film. It's the type of movie that honestly, no studio would really want to make, you know? Because I think on the surface people always think, you know, how do you get someone to go see a movie about Guantanamo Bay. There's just - there's a risk there. There's a challenge there. But that's part of the reason when we approached the film was to really try and make it accessible in a way and make the film about people instead of politics.
SIMON: What kind of preparation did you go through to get a script together, create a storyline?
SATTLER: Yeah, it just really took a lot of research, you know? One big asset we had was WikiLeaks leaked the standard operating procedure for Guantanamo Bay, which is basically just an instruction manual on how to run the place. Which is hugely helpful because it gives you all those details - timetables, paperwork, all these great things. But I think the bigger challenge - to try and capture that spiritual zeitgeist of what does it feel like down there? 'Cause that's really what the movie's about. It's about the impact of life down there and what this place does and how it changes these people, both the detainees and soldiers.
SIMON: Why do we never learn why Ali - detainee 471 so beautifully portrayed by Peyman Moaadi - why do we never learn why he's in there?
SATTLER: First off because you know, this movie - the idea is really to put yourself in the shoes of Kristen's character and she would never know.
SIMON: Is that true, she would never know?
SATTLER: No. How would she? You know, these soldiers and detainees, they don't know anything. Like, they get no information. All they know is - he's locked in here, here's the history of how he's acted in here, I can tell you whether or not he's been violent or not while he's been down here.
But they wouldn't know their history. All they know is what these guys would tell them and try and tell them. But I think from a larger point of view, it was important to me to say that it doesn't really matter. And part of that reason is, I really wanted to make sure that the film remained very a-political. So for instance, if in the movie we said that he's guilty, he did this, well, then you'd be like, oh yeah - he should be down there. But if I said he's innocent, then the movie would be making this statement like, oh, it's a tragedy that he's down here, this is so wrong.
SIMON: But when you decline to make politics part of it, that is making a political statement, too.
SATTLER: Well, everything is political. You know, everything in the world is political and especially the second you say the word Guantanamo Bay, politics just pops into it. Even by not saying it, you're right - that is a political statement, but I think what I was trying to do is avoid partisanship. You know, everyone looks at Guantanamo Bay and they're not trying to figure out, what do we do about it? They're trying to figure out who's right and who's wrong. Everyone's trying to pick a side in this thing and I didn't want to pick a side. I wanted to say, look, both sides are wrong. Both sides are good guys and bad guys. You know, the U.S. is right and wrong. A lot of these detainees are right and wrong.
So that was kind of my - that's why, the reason I'm saying it's - it's not a-political, it's bipartisan. Let's say that.
SIMON: You almost have to turn away from the screen to watch the force-feeding scene.
SATTLER: Yeah. Yeah and that's something that, you know, in trying to do this film, you want to be honest and you have to show some things that are just a reality of life down there. And I knew we had to include some reference to the force-feeding.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CAMP X-RAY")
STEWART: (As Amy Cole) Well, that makes this day five. Y'all know what's coming next. You want to call it off?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (Foreign language spoken).
STEWART: (As Amy Cole) Take that as a no.
SATTLER: It's such a quandary. It's such this irony, you know? You have to violently make someone live. I know it's been coming up in the news a lot with the court case about releasing the videos and everything. And again, it's just one of those just absurd Kafka-esque situations where you don't know what the right answer is. It's this violent thing but also it's like, what, are you going to let him die? You going to hurt him to make him live? There's no good answer and I was just fascinated by just the strange conflicting feelings that come up when you have a scene like that.
SIMON: There's some pretty intense moments of conversation between Cole and Ali the detainee. And I wonder, since at another point in the film, she has cautioned, your interactions with the detainees are going to be seen on camera, wouldn't they avoid that?
SATTLER: Well, yes but at the same time, there's an interesting thing. You know, they do kind of chat down there. And the research that I did, it's like, yeah these people talk because they're just stuck down there. I think it's just the inherent nature of humanity. We have these two characters that are just lonely and inside of this very cold, uncaring institution. You know, we show Kristen's character start to feel isolated from some of her squad mates as well. And just the idea of like, you know, these are two characters that don't belong where they are. They don't feel like they have anyone to talk to. So you know, it's like any port in a storm so they reach out to each other.
SIMON: Yeah. Peter Sattler, he is the writer and director of the new movie "Camp X-Ray" with Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi. Thanks very much for speaking with us.
SATTLER: Thank you for having me.
Q: I recently saw Kristen at one of the New York Film Festival screenings of “Clouds of Sils Maria.” Have you had a chance to see it?
Peter: She’s great I haven’t seen Clouds yet but I’m excited to see it. She’s been doing a lot of great work and I’m honored for “Camp X-Ray” to be one of the first movies out of the gate to show this new side of her. It’s not really new because she’s been doing edgy work like this, but it’s cool for people’s perception of her to start to change a little bit.
Q: The film rests on Kristen Stewart because that’s who Americans mostly know. How did the casting come about and how did you get her to be your lead?
Peter: Kristen hadn’t done a movie in two years and we were fortunate enough to get it to her. She had been in a film that a good friend of mine, our executive producer David Gordon Green, had done before and so honestly she told me that she really responded to the script, she knew this girl and really wanted to take that risk and bring this character to life. Peyman Moaadi, I had not seen “The Separation” before. My casting director said, “You have to look at Peyman, this guy’s amazing.” He is, he was, and continues to be a remarkable actor, but also a really wonderful human being, as is Kristen. It was a great mixture and a great opportunity for us to have two amazing actors to work with, and their hearts are totally in the right place to make a movie like this. There’s no ego involved, everyone was just really committed to this crazy piece of art we wanted to make.
Q: Although Kristen is more recognized for her high profiled studio films and Peter more recently for ‘A Separation,’ what did you do to get Kristen to be seen in a different light?
Peter: I think with Kristen and Peyman they’re such talented actors that it was never about trying to pull anything out of them, it was more about filtering what they were throwing at me. They brings so much to the table as an actor that all I had to do was shape the performance. They’d say, “What about this?” “No, that’s not right for this scene, try this instead.” Peyman and Kristen are very different actors. Peyman has a very studious approach, he’s a writer and film director himself so he can approach these scenes in an authorial way and knows what it means for the larger story arc, whereas Kristen is more about living a true and honest moment. With her it’s mostly about trying to find ways to make the scenes feel fresh and not stale. She works best when she’s flying by the seat of her pants. It’s hard because in film you have to repeat scenes over and over again and do different takes. Kristen’s always had this side of her, like in “Runaways” or “Panic Room” or “Welcome to the Rileys.” She’s always been there, but has spent a lot of time doing popcorn movies which are great, but she has a broader reach of desires. As an actress she loves stretching herself, showing people sides of herself that she hasn’t explored.
Q: Getting to the casting, Peyman Moaadi is such a fantastic actor in Asghar Farhadi’s film. Were you privy to A Separation and About Elly before?
Peter: I hadn’t seen either of them until our casting director suggested Peyman. I watched A Separation and I was blown away. I’ve just become obsessed with Asghar Farhadi’s work. He’s so good. Peyman is so amazing in that role. It’s actually funny because when I saw A Separation, he’s so stern and so buttoned-down and so taciturn in that film, I thought this is completely wrong. Ali needs to be loud and boisterous. Kristen’s character is the one that’s quiet and buttoned-down, but my casting director said, “Just call him. Do a video chat with him. You’ve got to meet this guy.” So I did a video chat with him in Iran and he instantly jumped on and was like, “Hey sir! How are you doing?” He’s so full of life. It spoke to his range as an actor that he could play a character so different from his own persona. Honestly, after that first call I had with him, I couldn’t get Peyman out of my mind and then when I put Peyman and Kristen on a video chat together the chemistry was instant. We were just talking with him and Kristen had since watched A Separation and we talked about him. During the video chat we were talking with him and then at the end, I remember Kristen and I just looked at eachother and she was like, “We have to give him the role.” I was like, “Yeah. We do.” We gave him the job right on the spot. We were like, “Peyman, no one else can play this role.”
Q: Yeah, he’s great. When Kristen came on board is that what got more financing in place or was it there beforehand?
Peter: There was some in place, but I’m not even sure that would’ve been enough to get the movie going. You know, having Kristen on board helps in a lot of different ways. Not just in terms of financing, but really in terms of how people take the film seriously. If you sent a script out to an actor like Peyman Moaadi and there’s nobody in it and you’ve never heard of the director, no one is really going to take it seriously. No one is going to return your phone calls. Similarly, we were so lucky to get someone like John Carroll Lynch in this film. Just having an actor with the gravity and weight that Kristen does, it’s a vote of confidence. When you’re a first-time director, you need someone to say, “Hey, I believe in this guy and you should too.” David Gordon Green did that as an EP and Kristen when we met and said we want to do this movie together, she gave that vote of confidence as well. Even if they love the script, they’re just like who is this guy? I hope he’s not an asshole.
Q: Can you discuss your experience at Sundance and acquisition, perhaps what you felt going in?
Peter: Yes, Sundance was a whirlwind, as anyone that’s been there knows. It’s a circus, man. It’s crazy. That was the first time I’d been to Sundance, ever, attending or with a film or anything. So to go there with Kristen and all the media hoopla surrounding her and all the press we were doing, it was wild. At the same time it was very interesting to me because we literally just finished the film. I did a quality check on the DCP like two weeks before Sundance happened so it still so raw and still just a part of me. It was a very weird emotional time. There’s also kind of a release. Once it’s done and you get it out there and you start to talk to people that have seen it and you read a review or talk to someone and they understand exactly what you were trying to do, it’s a really satisfying thing. It’s like, “Oh, thank God.” I had a very clear vision of what I wanted the movie to be then it just becomes a question of the execution and when you execute that, do people get it? A ton of people have and that’s just super satisfying to me.
So yeah, I was there and IFC picked it up and they’ve been awesome. We’ve got a nice little release coming out here and we did a ton of crazy press with Kristen and we’re doing a bunch right now with her. It’s been nice and it’s a real challenge too. It’s a film about Guantanamo Bay. That’s an interesting marketing challenge. How do you get people to look at something they’ve spent the last 12 years of their life ignoring? Which is part of the approach I wanted to take. Not to be this over-the-top political film but make it about people. Whether or not you share my opinions about Gitmo, or whatever your opinion about Gitmo is, you can relate to people. You can relate to any human being if you get to know them well enough. That’s really the whole point of the film.
Q: How did you end up casting Kristen as the lead?
Peter: It worked out for me. I was asked what my ultimate dream cast was, as I didn't really have anyone in mind while I wrote it. I assumed it would be micro-budget so I didn't expect the star to be the biggest star in the universe! I chose Kristen as my dream casting choice, and thankfully once asked she agreed. I think she's phenomenal and I was obsessed by her performance in The Runaways. She is a very open actress and so dedicated to creating a real and honest moment in her scene. She wants her character to be authentic and it was a dream to have her in this role.
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Q: I’m really excited for this film, since we get to see a new side to Kristen Stewart.
Peter: It’s a really remarkable role for her and I’m excited for people to see this side of her. You know, everyone knows her from these fun…movies that she’s done, but she’s really a remarkable actress capable of an incredible amount of subtlety and nuance, which is really what this role thrives on. So, I’m excited to be a part of this transitioning and redefining of what people expect from her.
Q: How was it directing the cast, especially Stewart? How was it to see the actors embody your characters?
Peter: It was really amazing and really remarkable because the movie lives and dies by these two characters. I had a vision in my head and on the page of what they were, and at the end of the day, it’s all about seeing those characters come to life. And the remarkable thing is that Kristen and Peyman aren’t just actors, but they’re remarkable artists in their own right. They love to create their own art. Peyman has written and directed numerous Iranian films and Kristen writes and plays music and all these things, so as a director, it’s great.
I can tell these actors what to do all day long, sure, but it’s so much better when you have someone to collaborate with and they give you ideas. All you have to do as a director is filter that and channel that energy and say, “I love your ideas, and of those five ideas, this is the one that’s right for the movie.” They can just throw them at me and I can be the filter them and suggest and help channel and help steer that energy. It’s so much easier when someone’s coming at you with this force and throwing things at you instead of having to try and get it off its feet…With some scenes and some actors, is to just make it feel real and to just have something on screen.
When you have actors like Kristen and Peyman, [just] based on cold reads from them, it’s amazing because they’re inventing stuff. They’re doing things on screen. They’re filling every moment with nuances and idiosyncrasies. Then it’s easier, because as a director, all we need to talk about now is how do we shape and choose and decide the exact path this film is going to take.
Q: Clouds of Sils Maria just screened at the New York Film Festival and it was great, have you seen that yet?
Peter: No, I still haven’t seen it cause Kristen won’t show me all these movies she’s been doing. I’ve also been busy, so I’ll just have to bug her to send me a copy.
Q: You need to see it! And I’m only bringing it up because other than Adventureland and Into the Wild, everyone pretty much just associates Kristen with Twilight.
Peter: What about The Runaways, man? Don’t forget Runaways! That movie is amazing! That’s the one that I saw and I was like “whoa, this girl can act!”, cause she’s also in Panic Room and has small parts in some cool movies but when I saw Runaways I thought “she’s for real!”. I saw it years ago, but from that point on I was like “Twilight is just an aberration, this girl is cool, there’s something about her that’s really rad!”
Q: In The Runaways though she’s really explosive, while in Camp X-Ray you have her hide inside this shell of sorts…
Peter: One of the things that Kristen’s really great at is, she has this great toughness to her but she’s also very vulnerable, and it’s that mixture of things that made me think I couldn’t not have her in the movie, because it’s perfect for this soldier that she’s playing. She has to have this tough facade because she’s a soldier, she’s surrounded by these aggressive dudes all the time so she has to keep this thick skin, but underneath it all there has to be this wound, this vulnerable child. Kristen can express that in a perfect way. She’s also an amazing actress when she doesn’t have lines, she can do so much without saying a single word. In this film she barely has any lines and all the emotion comes from her face and it’s so powerful and raw. When you catch Kristen and she’s really feeling a moment and you capture that on film it is the most magical thing on earth. It is like capturing lightning in a bottle!
Q: I don’t know much about the army to be honest, but I found it interesting that the film is basically about a young woman who doesn’t know what to do with her life, so she decides to hide in the army, it gives her the perfect place where she doesn’t have to “be”...
Peter: That’s exactly right! I was talking about this with Kristen the other day, I think of Camp X-Ray as a quarter life crisis movie, when you’re at that stage in life when you’re getting out of college and go from being a child into becoming an adult. Many people look at the grown up world and realize things aren’t black and white, so people need to find some dogma to believe in, something to cling to, so you’re exactly right, I think this character is trying to escape herself and literally put on this soldier costume. She’s uncomfortable in her own skin so she tries another skin on. Of course in the end she realizes she needs to open up her inside and actually deal with what she’s feeling.
Q: Speaking of love, it’s interesting that you didn’t feel the need to create a platonic romantic relationship between the two characters in your film.
Peter: This movie isn’t about romantic love, I wanted it to be something deeper. And in movies once two characters have sex, the conflict’s gone, and I always think the courting was so much cooler and exciting. In a movie essentially you’re stirring together a recipe for emotion, one of my favorite recipes is bittersweet. I don’t trust happiness to some degree, if you give something a sweet happy ending it doesn’t resonate with the real world.
Q: But there is a lot of chemistry between Kristen and Peyman! Since you shot the movie in 21 days, how did you have time to develop this chemistry?
Peter: We had a couple weeks of rehearsal which was good, but mostly those two had an instant chemistry. Since they’re both such good actors and they’re so intelligent about film in general, not just as actors, but like filmmakers, we talked about the characters and we would hang out a lot. We built a circle of trust at the beginning. I wanted to create a cool crew where everyone trusted each other and would make the actors feel comfortable when they were doing their emotional scenes.
How does someone who’s lesser known in Hollywood go about establishing themselves in an industry predicated on name and prestige?
Peter: It’s a huge challenge. That’s why I got out of film school. If you look at my IMDB page, I worked every job under the sun. I was a grip, I was a key grip, I was a PA, I was a graphic designer in the art department. I did everything because I love films, but it takes a while for a writer to mature and to write something that is powerful and grown-up. So for the last ten or twelve years, I was doing mostly re-writes for the studios. So I got a little toe-hole in some of that. Really, the film happened for two very important reasons. One is that a very good friend of mine, David Gordon Green, an amazing filmmaker who I’ve known since school, really championed me in getting this made. The other was that the script really resonated with Kristen. And once Kristen comes in, all of a sudden we’re in. Once Kristen says, “I believe in this guy. He’s a first-time director, but I believe in his vision” then everyone else rallies around and we start to work within a budget.
Q: What was it like working with Kristen?
Peter: Kristen’s amazing. The first thing to know about her is how down-to-earth, passionate, and intelligent she is. The way she approached the character was so thorough, and because she’s so creative, she’ll invent moments for you. It’s so helpful. She’s also very different from Peyman [Moaadi]; you have to direct both in very different ways. Peyman is very used to long rehearsals, and that’s because he’s a writer and director himself and comes to it with the eyes of an author wanting to get every shot right. For Kirsten, it’s much more about capturing the raw emotion. It was very interesting working with both of them and all three of us had a very enjoyable collaboration.
Q: At the time, my family didn’t own a TV so we went to Circuit City to see what was happening. I remember seeing all these huge, big-screened TVs playing the image over and over again.
Peter: That must have been so crazy. Someone told me that Kristen’s fan-base was going to see the film. They’re the millennials and are this much younger crowd, and a lot of them admitted to not remembering 9/11. That’s fascinating to me and another reason why they should go see the film, because our world has been shaped by it. I remember when Osama Bin Laden was killed, people began collecting tweets reading like, “Who’s this Osama Bin Laden guy?” It just goes to show the march of time and how these things that have such a huge impact on our lives are so easily forgotten. The thing with Guantanamo Bay is that it happened and then people stopped talking about it. Everyone forgets it’s there. And that’s what art can do. It’s powerful and can remind people of history, because if you can’t remember your history you’re doomed to repeat it.
That answer is crazy lol, "a lot of them admitted to not remembering 9/11".. when? who? not to mention the Ben Laden thing.. crazy.
Q: Hunger strike prevented filmmakers from visiting the real Gitmo
Peter: Right after Kristen got on board and we got financing. We thought we had enough credibility to go down there for research, but at that time, a huge hunger strike just happened and they started reducing the ability of anyone to visit. They would only let a few select journalists down there.
Q: KStew says the movie set was haunted — was it?
Peter: The location where they shot the film was an abandoned juvenile detention facility just outside of LA that had a creepy vibe. We were going into this derelict, broken down kind of juvenile prison, and when you're there, you can feel the energy of that place. A handful of kids died there, so there's ghost stories and whatnot. It's really creepy at night, and the guys who run the facility used to be guards. They had plenty of stories to tell. People saw some weird stuff. It was a strange and psychically-charged place.
Q: Do Islamic "detainees" really read Harry Potter?
Peter: Yes, they happen to love YA fiction, according to Sattler, who said, I found this photograph of Guantanamo Bay's library, and there were dozens of copies of the Arabic version of Harry Potter. The Twilight books are also really popular. I couldn't use that in the film for obvious reasons.
Q: Kristen Stewart is "all about the work"
When we asked Sattler what surprised him most about working with Kristen Stewart, he said, "My biggest fear about meeting with Kristen was that this was going to be the smallest movie she's ever done in her life. When I asked her if she was OK with that, she said, "Yeah, I don't care, I'm just about the work." And she is — she's all about going after and making honest moments on film that ring true."
Q: The inmates are called "detainees" not "prisoners" — here's why
Peter: The George W. Bush administration asserted that these "detainees" are not subject to any protections of the Geneva Conventions code of conduct. Why is that important? It means the U.S. can use torture techniques not allowed on "prisoners," who have actual rights. Force feeding, putting men in stress positions, sleep deprivation and beatings have all been reported to have taken place in the camp. In a 2005 Amnesty International report, they referred to Gitmo as the "Gulag of our times."
Q: How did you know Kristen Stewart was right for this role?
Peter: When I started thinking about her I immediately realized the reason she is perfect for the film is she has a perfect mix of toughness and vulnerability. That’s at the heart of this character.
Q: Is Kristen similar to Cole?
Peter: In some ways, yes. We talked about this a lot. We would find things from our own past we could relate to. Kristen seeks out roles that can explore a part of her. She definitely has a toughness to her and she’s kind of a tomboy but she also has a very sensitive side that is an intrinsic part of her.
Q: Does she joke around on set?
Peter: If you can get her unguarded and at the right moment she can be super talkative and jokey. She’s actually a very funny person and she’ll talk a mile a minute if she’s got something to say. She has a lot of different sides to her. I’ve been in the same room with Kristen when the paparazzi are chasing her. She throws her guard up and doesn’t say anything. But, when she feels safe she’s a lot of fun. She has more talkative roles in the works and I’m really looking forward to her upcoming comedy.
Q: Can you talk about the instant chemistry between Peyman Moaadi and Kristen Stewart?
Peter: It happened in a heartbeat. We cast Kristen first. Her casting director suggested Peyman. We did a video chat with the two of them and they fell right into their characters.
While filming, Sattler encouraged the cast to rewrite their own lines in order to enhance authenticity. "Ultimately, it has to work for the actors," he said. "In saying it, and in reading it, Peyman or Kristen understood what that beat was about. And they understood it so well that they could experience it on their face. We cut a lot of monologues because we realized we didn't even need the rest of the line. A lot of it is learning that you can do so much with so little." But prioritizing subtletly didn't have to come at the cost of confronting some of Guantanamo's harshest realities. The film tackles suicide, various methods of torture, and heavy existential themes to boot. "You can't just be cavalier about it," said Sattler. "You're shooting some really intense stuff and you have to create an environment that fosters that intensity from your actors."
But even an absorbing script about a hot-button issue like Guantanamo isn't guaranteed to secure financing. What it did do, however, was attract Kristen Stewart. "Kristen read it, and she loved it," Sattler said. "It's just as simple as that. She told me she hadn't done a movie for two years. And when she sat down she said, 'You know, I was waiting for something to grab me."
"Having Kristen attached helped everything," Sattler said. It was not only the vote of confidence the film needed to get financed, but it also attracted other seasoned cast members to the project, such as Peyman Moaadi and John Carroll Lynch. "You can call someone and say, 'I'm making an indie film about Gitmo,' and they'll say, 'And?' But if you call and say, 'I'm making an independent film. It's about Guantanamo Bay. It stars Kristen Stewart,' they're like, 'Oh, really!'"
Sattler can't sing Kristen's praises highly enough: "She took a real leap of faith jumping into this role. It's a very challenging role for anyone to master." "Camp X-Ray" also bolstered Kristen's career by helping to diversify her public image. "Based on the reviews she's been getting, people have been really surprised that she pulled off this nuanced and internalized role," said Sattler. "I'm extremely proud that people are starting to look at her in a different way. There's been this great renaissance in the way people think about Kristen. And that's all to her credit, because she made a very conscious choice to make some bold, aggressive moves in the movies she was doing. I'm super excited to be the first film in this new chapter of Kristen Stewart."
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Q: Let’s talk about your film. I haven’t seen it yet, but I can’t wait to check it out.
Lane: Lance, I’m telling you right now, I am more proud of the work in this film than anything I have done yet. And I’m so proud of this movie.
This film, I didn’t know what to expect. We premiered and sort of opened Sundance this year and I hadn’t seen the film. So I’m stuck in Eccles Theatre and basically sweating bullets even though it was snowing outside and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I don’t know what to expect.” And after the film was done literally standing ovation after standing ovation. People crying. It’s just a powerful movie and it’s Kristen Stewart’s best performance yet. I told her that to her face. I said, “You should be beyond proud of the work you’ve done in this movie.”
We did this on a shoestring budget. I don’t know the exact budget, but I wanna say it was around a million, and we shot in 24 days. So this was a run and gun, intense film. Peyman Moaadi, from A Separation, plays the lead detainee and, you know, watching this man’s work is a beautiful thing. He’s just got this soul that radiates on screen. And I’m very proud of this movie, very proud of this film.
Q: You guys shot so fast, you said 24 days, do you guys get together before and rehearse everything? Or is it just right before you shoot?
Lane: We did a 2 day rehearsal with me, Kristen, Peyman and the director. We didn’t go through the script because Pete didn’t want to do that. He wanted it to feel real. But we just talked about character dynamics and who these people were. And once you’re inside that environment, we were basically at a rundown prison, an empty prison, outside of Whittier [California]. Once you’re inside that facility with the razor wire and everything else, everything came to life. But really it was more about us getting to know where our characters were coming from and who they were as people. But, yeah, that was the process.
Q: So when the director says action, that’s the very first time you guys are doing it?
Lane: Yeah, that’s the first time we’re doing it. We’ll do a blocking rehearsal, but we would never reveal where we were at really emotionally. And I believe in that process myself. I don’t like to get locked in on a performance or something I’m anticipating. I like the generals and then I like to let go and breathe and see what happens emotionally when I’m connected. So the process worked great for me and I think Kristen and Peyman both enjoyed it.
Q: Please tell us the premise for Camp X-Ray and about your character.
Lane: It takes place Guantanamo Bay and “Camp X-Ray” was the term Marines called the portion of Guantanamo Bay. People may not be aware that I believe around 180 detainees are still being held down there and in limbo. The story takes place after 9/11 and we’re sort of sweeping up terrorists around the world. We pick up a man who is named Ali who is played by a phenomenal actor named Peyman Moaadi. It’s kind of ambiguous if he is innocent or guilty. We meet up with him eight years after he has been detained. You see the humanity from both sides of the fence, from the guard’s perspective and from the detainee’s perspective. We try to tell this intimate story and try to humanize the story of what is going on down there because there are still 180 men that are just in limbo. They haven’t had the ability to have a trial in the court of law. You don’t know if they are guilty or innocent. And because they are in Guantanamo Bay, no country will take them in. We find ourselves sort of caught in this really dark and twisted world. I probably represent the darker side because I play a young prison guard who is sort of desensitized because of his environment. I’ve sort of seen it all and my philosophy is, “You’re all guilty of 9/11 so you should all rot here.” He’s sort of void of all emotion until Private Cole (Kristen Stewart) and she starts to chip away at my armor. She sort of peaks my interest about humanity and makes me question some of the things I’m doing. This is Kristen’s, hands down, best performance of any of her films. People are going to be blown away by her performance and will be in tears by the end of the film. She is reaching the next level. She’s such a hard worker and I have such good things to say about her. This is a movie we shot in twenty-four days on a shoe string budget and we all poured our hearts into it.
Q: What kind of guidance did Peter give you and notes to creating this role?
Lane: Peter is one of those directors that you can bounce ideas off of him and he is so driven in his vision. Kristen and I would always come up with ideas and he’d say, “Yeah…no, I think it is this.” He was very definitive with his choices, which I respect and we battled it out creatively. He is just so locked into the script he wrote that he knew every nuance and moment. It’s great to work with a director like that because you trust him. Once you got that, it was sort of a free fall. We let this happen the way Peter envisioned it and it was like, “Now we have the characters down, let’s go!”
Q: Was the chemistry and connection you have with Kristen Stewart for the film something that came naturally or did you spend time building it?
Lane: We have this love/hate thing going on because we had such great chemistry on and off screen. It was weird because in a lot of the scenes I’m so arrogant and such a bastard that she’d always give me this look like she wanted to just punch me in the scene. She hated me with disdain and once we had finished filming we would always go out. We built a driving range and Kristen is a phenomenal athlete. We were either playing basketball or driving golf balls out of this prison to cut loose. The weight and the gravity of each scene was so heavy and so dense with material that once they yelled, “Cut!” we went back to this friendly behavior. I felt it was healthy so it wouldn’t be a miserable set since it was so intense. There is a scene where I am headed towards sexually assaulting her and I start making out with her and I get really aggressive where I am trying to get more from her. We worked that out and we both said, “Let’s just let go.” I think she trusted me and I trusted her. That’s always an awkward situation where you are really getting intimate with someone, but a hundred people are watching you do it. I think my biggest stress in that scene was that I made sure to eat like a hundred breath mints. We would do a take and I’d run and use mouthwash and I’d use breath mints. When you see the scene in the film it’s great and really intense. It’s honestly one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie. The scene really sheds light on the aggressive nature towards women in the military because they are a minority. You are locked into this environment so you really see how difficult it is on all aspects of life for women in the military.
Q: You are a part of social media. Are you looking forward to the instant fan feedback you’ll receive when the film premieres?
Lane: I feel like it is great because it is a quicker way to spread the word. I think that the response, for the most part, is going to be really positive. Kristen has got such a huge following and fanbase that I feel it is going to get out there fast and it will be like a wildfire. I’m excited about it and I’m excited about watching it through social media. Already within the first four days of releasing the trailer we had crossed four million views on YouTube. We could never have done that before.
Q: What is it that sets Peter Sattler apart as a filmmaker? Why do you believe he’s going to have a long career?
Lane: “Well, working with directors and, especially as an actor, you want somebody that has a clear-cut vision. I mean, nowadays because of the editing process and everything else, you’ll get guys who are just technical directors, who will shoot 30 different ways just because they’re just going to let somebody choose the scene. Whereas Peter, even if you had an idea, Peter would really think about it before he’d give you his answer and usually it was, ‘No. I see it as this,’ which is great.
Kristen and I wold come to Peter like, ‘What if this?’ and he would give us the time of day and he’d be like, ‘No, I think it’s more like this.’ It’s almost like you’re going into war to begin with. You want to follow the general who’s got the vision, and he definitely has that. It’s his storytelling and I just see him doing great film after great film. In fact, I’ve been bugging him, saying, ‘Hurry up with your next one because I want to be in it!’”
Q: This was a very emotional project so how did you deal with that on the set?
Lane: “We were dealing with some intense material and obviously there was dark and powerful stuff going on, so Kristen and I, because of that, in between takes we built a driving range at the prison. We’d play basketball. She’s a phenomenal athlete. I’m a big athlete. We would be joking in between takes just to lighten the mood because where we were shooting and what the subject matter was.
I loved working with her. She is a true professional and she is incredible in this movie. This is the best thing she’s done. It’s her best performance yet and it’s going to put her in another league.”
Q: At the end of the day when the shoot was over, was it easy for you to fall asleep?
Lane: “You know what? It wasn’t with this one. I mean, I took a lot of memories with me, and a lot from the past too, and I’ve really lived in this guy’s shoes. Luckily it was only just under a month we shot this film, which is incredible. So luckily I didn’t have to live in that world for too long. But, yeah, I definitely took this guy home with me.
It’s funny. Kristen used to joke with me and when I’d come to set and in between takes, she’d just say, ‘You’re a little too good at this. You’re taking this a little too far.’ I had to walk away from it, from playing Randy when we were done. I really believe that people are going to respond to this film and respond to all the actors in it and the storytelling. I’m glad that I went to that dark place and I’m glad that I emotionally got there and lived in that world, so I think it definitely helped.”
Q: You were talking about Kristen’s performance and there’s one scene in particular that was very powerful between the two of you. How difficult was that to film?
Lane: “It’s always an interesting thing because you’re filming something that’s so intimate, yet there’s 100 people watching. It would be one thing if it was like this passionate love scene but this was kind of aggressive, violent, and uncomfortable, and I think it helped us having everybody there because we wanted it to feel uncomfortable. Now, I will say that in between each take I was definitely running to the craft service cart and popping breath mints like there’s no tomorrow. [Laughing] Just to make sure Kristen’s like, ‘Oh my god, you have perfect breath!’ It was kind of funny in that sense.
But working with Kristen, she’s a young actress who is a movie star. She’s going to go so far because how trusting she is and how willing she is to go through whatever level we need to go to to get the performance. And we just went all in. It’s not in the film, but on the first take I told her to hit me as hard as she could. I said, ‘Do not hold back.’ We’ve earned that trust and she did it. I got so angry that I punched through the wall. I punched straight through the wall and went insane. I thought that for sure that would be in the movie. Everybody was clapping and going nuts and it really helped set the tone for that scene. It didn’t make the film because Peter felt like he wouldn’t have been redeemable after that, after going to that level. I was shocked by it, Kristen was shocked by it, but I understood when I saw the film. But having that happen on the first take helped us get to that intensity. It’s actually my favorite scene in the movie.”