Interview: J.C. Chandor talks ‘A Most Violent Year’ and his next project ‘Deepwater Horizon’

la-2414208-ca-1125-jcchandor-01-cmc-jpg-20141230This may not seem like an overt compliment, but I assure you that it is one: J.C. Chandor likes to talk, and talk a lot. When we plopped down on a chair/couch (respectively) for a one on one interview during the Press Day for his new film A Most Violent Year, I’d already sat in on an earlier roundtable discussion that he did with some colleagues, so a number of the things I wanted to ask him had already been covered. Instead of going over that ground once again with him, we had a far more casual conversation (including his praise of The Awards Circuit, so go us!), one that hit on growing up in New York City, as well as things about his film, of course, but also dovetailed into his next project, the big budget feature Deepwater Horizon. You can see the best bits of our talk below (as well as my coverage of the roundtable with his stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac here), though be sure to check out the film as well. A Most Violent Year is in theaters right now!

Here are the highlights of my interview with Chandor…

On the genesis of A Most Violent Year and how he came up the idea to set a movie in this time period

J.C. Chandor – This movie came about, the setting of course is that year, sort of it all made sense once it clicked. Like, I remember that time, I was seven or eight years old. You know, it started because I literally had this weird question, which was literally like “what’s the most violent year on record, statistically speaking, in New York City?” The fact that it zeroed in on this year that had so much other significance, was kind of fascinating to me. It was this sort of transformational year for the entire city.

The importance of Abel’s somewhat unspoken heritage

JCC – You know, his exact heritage, for a guy who had been spending the last 20 years of his life trying to strip away his heritage and become sort of the ultimate American…he wouldn’t tell you man! It’s not, you know, it is pragmatic, to a certain extent. Some people want or need to know and it drives them crazy and they can’t enjoy the movie, but my films frankly are not for those people, normally.

On the way his films are growing in size and vision

JCC – Yeah, I think they’ll get smaller after this next one. This next one is going to be, well, large. We’re making this huge one, it’s well well over $100 million, so it’s a big endeavor. The next one will definitely be smaller. The first two were about the scale and the scope that I needed to tell the story. For example, I could not tell All is Lost the way I wanted to for sort of less than like $7 or $8 million, and then Mr. Redford got involved and so the budget being like $9 and a half or $10 million. So that was literally as cheap as we could do that movie safely, you know? Then, this one was sort of the same thing, in that it was a little bit more, maybe $18.5 or $19 million, which for me is a pretty big budget, but, and I never knew this, to actually tell a broad scale period film, it’s freaking expensive. Cars, costumes, VFX to clean up all the things that weren’t supposed to be there. In our case, adding things in, like all the graffiti, sort of licensed graffiti from that era that we put in. Also, I wanted to have a halfway decent salary! Though, I think in the end we had to all give up most of our salaries. I actually probably made more on All is Lost than on this one. So this next one is flat out about it being bigger. If the movie does go (knocks wood), for the first time I’ll be getting paid a real nice fucking wage that I can send my kids to school for a bunch of years on!

Some details about what he’s planning with his next project Deepwater Horizon

JCC – For me, it’s what I do best, which is trying to figure out what these people who were real people, what they were doing and why they were doing it. I mean, it’s a crazy story, so that opportunity, to tell a huge scale story and have it released out into the world broadly, but also be about a real life event that affected our relationship with oil and where we are with oil right now, that was an opportunity I didn’t let pass. Frankly, even though some of the core story elements are close to Margin Call and they do sort of follow each other in these interesting ways, it’s good for me because the rest of the movie could not be any more different than Margin Call. There are these core emotional things that the characters are going through that are similar, but in a really interesting way.

Wait until you see this fucking movie! If I made it up, you’d think I was being too arch and too cheesy. Dude, the shit, I wish BP was not quite as ridiculous as they were in this instance, the pressure they were putting on these poor people to hurry up. It leads, these fucking BP execs land that day to give an award for safety, but what they’re really there to do, because they’re way behind, is to backdoor them and hurry them the fuck up. The “hurry the fuck up” shit literally, a couple of hours later, leads to “kaboom”!

For me, it’s also, the movie in a weird way, there’s no political angle on it or anything. The reality is, like, we need oil. I use oil, I’m going to drive home tonight with oil. So, I’m not sitting here trying to be holier than thou. We do need to come up with something else, because whether it’s 100 years from now, 200 years from now, 20 years from now, whatever your belief is, we’re running out of this shit. All you know is how hard it is, in this movie, for them to pull it up out of the ground, that lets you know that we’re starting to get to the final days of this thins. So, it’s like this wonderful and tragic poem about human beings’ relationship with oil. We need it, we love it, but oh shit, it’s a disaster and just a pain in our ass. It’s going to be quite something and I’m really impressed that they’re actually making it.

What the future holds for him

JCC – It’s a kids movie actually! I’ve got young kids, so it’s not like Barney or anything, it’s still a kind of narrative undertaking that’s interesting to me, but yeah, I’m going to make a more old fashioned type of adventure movie for kids, which is what I used to love as a kid. You know, animation right now is so amazing, but the down side is that it’s pretty much erased all live action movies for kids. There’s no Goonies, there’s no nothing. I’ve been working for a couple of years on a kids movie that I’m really excited to do, in the next couple years, whenever. You know, I waited around for 15 years, hoping to ever get the chance to make a movie, and now it’s so exciting that I’ve got ideas starting to pile up. It’s so amazing. So I’ve got that script in my head and I’m literally working on the Deepwater Horizon script. It’s gotta be done in the next week or two.

There you have the best of my one on one conversation with Chandor. A Most Violent Year is expanding in theaters right now.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!