• John McTiernan, from press conference

      FEST 2016 / News / John McTiernan, from press conference
      06. March 2016.
      You learn about film yourself, there's no one else who can do that for you

       You grew up with A Clockwork Orange, watched Truffaut and Fellini, what was it about these authors that made an impression on you?

      You learn about film yourself, there's no one else who can do that for you. I just wanted to see how people who know how to do it actually do it, to try to understand it. I went to Juilliard in New York, I was in the class behind Robin Williams, and I realised that theatre was not what I wanted to do. I started thinking about film and going to the Symphony cinema, it still exists. I deliberately chose a simple film, Truffaut's Day for Night. People alwas have different impressions about films - some people would say that it's a story about this or that, they'd say that a guy did did this and then something happened, or they would say that the camera was great, beautiful pictures. Also, since Day for Night is such a simple film, I thought that it would be a good example to study. I'd been watching it from 9 in the morning until 11 in the evening, over and over again, for two days, until I got over the plot, those moments when I observe something new in the frame, until I reached the moment when I was satisfied with what I learned, until I understood the reality of the film. The reality is that it is a chain of pictures in a certain order that tells a story or entertains in some way. So, first you need to realise how you should make that order of pictures that contain information you want to convey. Then you need to define a relation those pictures will have, because they form a style of the film, its language of a sort. It's this relation that influences what information the viewers will get from what they're watching. I know it sounds silly, but that's where I needed to start.

      What moves you, what are your motives for making a film?

      Motivation for every film is different. I still haven't made a film just because someone paid me to do it, which is a motivation for most people. In Red October I was fascinated with the technology, I wasn't interested in the war, it's a film about conciliation, about people fighting to understand each other and create peace. Specifically, it's about people living inside their own minds, people on submarines, the whole technology exists in their minds, they can't see anything, it's about learning the skills we'll need in space. I was thinking about them as if I was making a story about a modern man. A modern man doesn't need to reach for a gun and start shooting people, but he does need to know how to use his mind to make machines that will be able to do what people never could, people who do that, they're the heroes. And I believe that stories about these people are much more important than some mythical stories about some guy in the XIX century with a badge on his chest, parading down the main street of a city that never existed, shooting someone who also never existed.

      What's the topic on your mind when it comes to the new film?

      I've been working on two films and I hope that they'll both come to life soon. One of them seems like it's about those people parading down the street, shooting at people, but it's actually a layered story, layers come off and you realise that it's something entirely different. Actually, Serbia would be a great place to shoot it. I don't mean for the cultural reasons, but because what it looks like, because of all of these young directors that I've met in the last 24 hours, because of the surroundigs, I think it would fit well.

       How do you see this division between blockbusters and author films?

      American blockbusters are like comics, you have directors who are not film authors, they can't read, someone shows them a comic and it looks like a film to them. They do it for completely different reasons than most directors who enter the film world for cultural reasons. Shakespeare comes to mind, who said that actors are chroniclers of the time, and we are in the same business, we do it for the same reasons. People who make those comics hope they have a money making machine, if they make one film and it makes money, they will make 40 more, exactly the same, until the tank empties, and then someone else comes along and brings something new, and everyone calls him a genius. But that's not the main function Shakespeare was talking about 400 years ago, that's the difference.

       There is something very filmish about the comics, graphic novels and comics are art...

      Graphic novels, yes. Marvel comics...not so much.

      Predator has one of the most iconic scenes in the modern action films, we're talking about the last scenes where there is no dialogue, it all turns into a pure visual experience. What was your inspiration for it and how did you manage to materialise your vision so clearly?

      I was lucky that Arnold wanted to go home, he said: "You know, I'll shoot for another day or two..." We were in a real jungle back then, not in a resort where there are casinos and other stuff, it was a tiny town with one restaurant that we occupied. I needed to finish the film in two nights and that was a good thing beacuse the script was full of garbage that got pushed to Predator 2, the scenes on the space ship... Terrible stuff I wanted to get rid of, so it was a blessing from heaven. Arnold wants to go home, too bad. The producers were pulling their hair, and I told them to relax, that I'd think of something. I wrote the scene that same evening because I knew where we would shoot it, I could visualise all the frames, I built the scene inside my head. One night we were shooting with Arnold, and the other with the monster, the scene was already edited in my head, so the frames came together naturally. Years later, I could do the same thing in The Thomas Crown Affair, on purpose, there was this whole sequence where he was stealing the second painting, a bunch of stupidities stolen from other films. The chief of studio trusted me because I had already made Hunt for the Red October for them. I told him I didn't like all that and asked him if I could cut those 25 pages, he told me ok, just finish the film. So I made up the whole sequence with the hats, it had been roiling in my head for a while, and I had already planted the seeds of the idea throughout the film, which led to that ending. The real test whether those 25 pages were important - I had a cop asking another: "How the hell did he do that?!", and the other cop just shrugs. The audience doesn't care, they got their answer, who cares! And it worked perfectly, the audience really didn't care, they cared far more about the love story than about the mechanics.

      What's your impression on Serbia?

      I have noticed that young people want to be part of Europe. They have finally left the World War I behind, they just don't care about it any more, they just want to be modern Europeans and that's wonderful.