Apted | Is More Than Apt
an emily blunt
Apted's "little" indie film Enigma
is filled with the highest quality of actor. It's also terribly
British, in that Masterpiece Theater-ish cinematography and pompanstance
so Northumberlandy one gets chilly just watching way! If you have
not seen this gem of a yarn, I can tell you it's a wonderfully
intelligent thriller that exudes style.
Apted knows I adore the film and we sat to chat, with a lovely
pot of tea, about how he went from Bond to bonds. That's a bad
Enigma is a code devise used by "our" side during WW2.
It was real and designed in the infamous Bletchley Park. That's
where Alan Turing, the father of computers (and Apple's logo inspiration)
worked way back when...
Mike added some swell talent into the story's cauldron of yummy
bits; Kate Winslet, Dougray Scott, the edible Jeremy
Northam and Saffron Burrows. Enjoy!
The subject is very intelligent. Did you have to do a lot of research?
Well, yeah I did, you sort of have to because the book was very
well-researched, but it was very hard to do the research because
not a lot of the people who worked and are still alive are happy
Yeah, I imagine not..
a lot of both human and literary research that you don't really
research as much as you want to. So there was lots and lots of
opportunity for it, they could send the actors off to spend time
with the people who'd been actually a part of it, so that was
kind of fun. The hard thing about the film was to get the balance
for me between the kind of emotion of the story, the kind of romantic
in me, and all the scientific stuff because I didn't want to trivialize
the scientific stuff, but I didn't want it just to be about that
and I didn't want to really rub an audience's nose in their ignorance,
which is so funny because I have no idea how these people broke
these codes to this day, I mean for a minute you might be in grasp
of it, but as soon as you try to explain it to someone it evaporates.
So I always felt that it could only accessible if the romantic
in me might add some power to it. But really the fight, well,
it really wasn't a fight so much, but a difference with Tom [
Stoppard the screenwriter] , he preferred all the scientific stuff,
all the codebreaking, and I am trying to push him to build up
all the women's parts and to try and make it a bit more romantic
Doug Ray is perfect as the half-wackers mathematician. How'd you
decide on him?
I suppose I'd seen his stuff and I'd met him and I just thought
he was a fresh idea. He's very young, he's only in his very early
thirties, and I just met him and liked him. I'd just done the
. Thing, I hadn't worked in a long time, and I knew it was
going to be a kind of a struggle because it was fairly underbudgeted
and I was going to have to get through it quite quickly so I wanted
someone who could work quite quickly. More from the end of the
independent film than from the kind of studio base. He and
had worked on independent films and I just liked his viewpoint.
I sort of feel like Dracula kind of biting up young blood and
feeding on it. No, I'll say it was trying in some ways,
but one of the things that appeared throughout the story was it
was all about young people who had actually been very powerful
whom the military establishment and the British government had
been beholden to in some ways, and I wanted to try and deal with
that,. It was quite nice to have some young people around
me when I was making the film.
Why did you make the film and not wait for a studio?
I'm not sure that any studio would have been interested. I think
they would have really put a lot of perimeters on it. I think
they would have want a lot of kind of midAltantic casting and
I think they would have, without being necessarily disrespectful
I think they would have wanted it dumbed down a bit. It just didn't
seem worth doing. I wanted to give it a British voice and I wanted
it to be as smart as it could, and I felt it would be a struggle
with a studio and that they would torture me and put me through
all things and I'd end up with something kind of half-baked at
least for better or worse, whether you like it or not,
we wouldn't make the film we wanted made. It would be nice to
have the character and the machinery of a big studio to sell the
film, that's the double-edged sword. When you go independent you
can make the film that you want, but then you don't have the power
to distribute it in the way that only a studio can distribute
it. It's a trade off that I felt with this film, the studio virtues
would probably be horrible.
And how did you get people like Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels
and Mick Jagger involved? Lorne's usually producing comedy films
Well they were involved from the very beginning. They were bidding
against each other for the book. They both had ambitions as movie
producers when the book came out five years ago, and so they were
both bidding and they knew each other, so they decided to form
a partnership rather than bid against each other,, and that's
how that, they actually bought the rights to the book. And Paramount
picked it up. They got Paramount to pay for it, because we all
had a deal with Paramount and they got Tom to do the first draft.
And then I came on and then Paramount put it into turnaround.
Naturally. So there you go. And there the struggle started, and
it was a long struggle to get the money and we abandoned it at
least once because we didn't have enough money to make it. But
it wasn't really until I did the Bond and Dougray did Mission:Impossible
2 that we had the money squeeze and the money started to come
So the film's timeline was two, three years for completion?
I started doing a Bond in August of 1998 and just before that,
in June we'd abandoned it. I'd been on it for a couple of years
up to June '98 and we'd decided that if the cast we got couldn't
raise enough money and so we would rather not do it. So we abandoned
it. Then I got the Bond and then money started coming in for it.
Nice you have both Kate Winslet and Jeremy Northam [sigh].
Actually, we didn't get Kate until the very end. We only got her
because she was pregnant and she couldn't do the film that she
was supposed to do. But it is kind of sad, but it is something
that comes out of it, I mean a film like that is financed on precept.
You can't interest the Germans or the French in Jeremy Northam
[his eyebrow raised in acknowledgment of my swooning when merely
mentioning dear Jeremy's name...] and that's a reality of it.
Reality is pretty cruel. If I'd had Tom Hanks in it, I could've
had 60 billion!
And Jeremy, err, Mr. Northam, was already cast?
Yeah. You see he's really great. They're all good. We've
got a whole lot of good actors in it. But I was very lucky to
get Kate. I asked her to do it once, and she said she liked it,
but she had other things to do. And she was developing her own
contract and what she was going to do, but she couldn't do it
because she said she'd be too pregnant to do it. She came back
and said could she be in it, and I said absolutely. But that means
I had to break shooting off and shoot her all first. Everyday
another place would go, and we could hide her body, but she's
quite a big girl. So we just about sneaked in under the wire.
It was a joke we had going.
Curious...Did it do well in Germany?
Not that well, no. The point was that it was made by German money.
There was no English or American at all, it was all German money
which was kind of bizarre. So you'd think if they invested in
it, they would say we'll would get our investment back in Germany.
But they didn't really. It did extremely well in England, but
really elsewhere it hasn't done that well.
Was it in trouble?
No, not at all, but it would have been nice to get his money back.
I remember reading in the original film notes about the pains
taken to be true to the real spirit of Station X and the real
people and really reality is woefully untold and Alan Turing -
the man behind the device - is not a character in your film -had
a terrible life afterwards though he was a hero.
Yes. That was a choice. It's such a great story that I didn't
want to just put it as a side bar into this. I've taken a bit
of liberty in that Dougray's character is a mathematical genius
and was developing computers that the story of
is so that
the Bletchley part is just a tiny part of the
. Story so
I have also been extremely well done at breaking the code. I didn't
want to get done up with. And you know Bletchley, that whole period
is full of stories, and I chose not to deal with Turing that I
could have done and he's mentioned in the book, but I felt that
it was very unsatisfactory in the book. There's no one, I imagine
around this table would know you were talking about selling a
character of Turing so I thought why screw it up? Why complicate
think he's one of the great geniuses of the twentieth century,
but his story's of high tragedy. So just to have him kind of casually
I thought was disrespectful. So that is why he's not
in the movie. Turing killed himself. You know Apple computers?
Well, you know the Apple logo.
Yes, I knew actually knew that...
Michael: Bravo. Well that bite out of the apple is in honor of
Emily: That no one ever tells me -- HOW?
The story is amazing, we don't have time to go into it, but basically
he put cyanide in an apple and bit the apple and killed himself.
He was homosexual and had been busted for living with someone
in England in '53, and plea bargained that he would agree to have
chemical treatment to rid himself of homosexuality and was injected.
He was one of great heroes of science, above them all. And he
grew breasts, and so he killed himself.
And he was I suppose in his early forties. It's just how England
treated her war heroes, so you can see that Bletchley Park is
a minuscule part of an incredible story.
When you make a movie from life and, are you happy
always function with going to a Bond, doing Enigma, doing a documentary,
then going somewhere else. I find that very stimulating, I mean
I'm always driven by the best material I can find wherever I can
find it, so I'm not always looking for big studio films. If it's
a big studio film that I like, then if I can get it I like to
do it. I don't set myself to die at the studio films or to die
at the independent films, I just go where, and you know it's stimulating
to do it, it keeps you on your toes!
In 42 Up you had the problem where the BBC reporter himself
wasn't here anymore. Can you tell me why? Curious.
Michael: No - sorry - I can't. See, because I'm trying to keep
on good terms with them in case they move around. The thing is
there was never any agreement with them. They were just
kids when they started. A lot of them, most of them are very angry
that they were pushed into it when they became adults by their
parents or by their schools, but with this one, these are adults
who have agreed contractually to stay a part of it over the next
ten years, so it's different in that way. Also with all the Up
films we never knew what we were going to be doing anyway, we
were just starting out as one film. With this one, the whole point
of doing other than just doing another film about people falling
in love is to follow it through so you can see how marriages that
you become familiar with as an audience work.
What was the
appeal to you in Enough?
Well, it is about women
and I've done a lot of films about
strong women, and it seemed to me in a sense the logical conclusion
of that. This is about a very difficult area of social life, domestic
abuse, and this is really a cautionary story and we're not suggesting
that women go out and wipe out their husbands, but we are suggesting
that women don't take the role of victim if at all possible. So
there is an element of Double Jeopardy, it is in that genre, but
this is about a woman actually empowering herself and setting
about doing something to deal with the situation she's in.
The last Bond film was more successful today than it's ever been
- enormously successful. Were you approached to do the next one?
Do you want to?
was sort of approached and it was a bit halfhearted. I didn't
want to wait around until they said, "We don't want to offer
it to a director until we have a script we like." We all
know that you have a script you like when you finish shooting.
And this Jennifer film had came up, so I went to do that rather
than hang around for 8 months waiting for them to make their great
wonderful mind up whether they want to do a third. It had been
most successful, and it was a tough hit. I don't think I want
to, I enjoyed it and I might do another one down the road, but
I think I just wanted to go straight into it and send the message
that this is what I wanted to do. I probably would have done it
if they'd handled it, but they didn't and so off any kind of dilemma
that I might do, it would have to be what I've been doing. It
was ridiculous. Then Enough came up and that seemed to
me to be well worth doing.
How about working with J-Lo - I have to ask - she's media bullion
Yes. Well, I think she's a very good actor. I was very impressed
with her. She was incredibly well prepared, worked very hard.
I think she has real talent. She's very real, I expect she has
a lot of range, and this material is the toughest she's had to
deal with. This is really heavy material. She's very good with
other actors. I've always thought she was good, it wasn't like
"oh my God what am I doing here?" Although there was
that element about how she would conduct herself, whether she
would show up or worse. But as an artist, I've always thought
she's really good. She's sometimes maybe not done stuff which
is that meaty for her, whether Selene or Out of Sight,
she absolutely brilliant.
you go a blunt talk with a great director. Rent or buy Enigma.
Enough is a tough chickbabe film- great for an evening
of women empowering man-bashing viewing. And J -Lo is really quite
good in it. Apted's lifelong works, the documentaries 7 Up,
21 Up and so on, are really amazing to watch in a day - to
see his subjects grow and become adults - with all their faults
and glories right before your eyes as opposed to the years-in-the-making
these gems took. Or maybe rewatch his little Bond film...