With all the recent news about the potential breach in personal liberties due to the invasive nature of the internet, director Robert Luketic (The Ugly Truth, Legally Blonde) and his cast of A-List talent couldn’t have hoped for a more timely release of their latest film, Paranoia.
Although Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) is the undeniable star of the movie, a huge attraction – and really, a reason in itself to give the movie a chance – is the reunion of former castmates Harrison Ford (42) and Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Rises). We haven’t seen these two together since 1997′s Air Force One, and watching them interact on the screen is an intense experience.
This is also the first time we’ve seen Hemsworth really lead his own film and take on a role that will help to give him more of his own identity – outside of his relationship, and his brother’s shadow. He took a risk with a more mature, dynamic character and gave us a solid performance under the direction of Luketic, opposite the strong female presence of Amber Heard (The Rum Diary).
Luketic and his cast, with the exception of Oldman, sat down for a press conference in Los Angeles recently to discuss the upcoming film and give us some insight into just how relative the content is to current events.
Check out what they had to say below.
So much of this film is premised on connection, disconnection, technology, old-school privacy – a big part of that was shooting this film in Philly at the Arbor Hill estate. How much for you, Harrison, did working in that environment of historic origins help inform your performance? Similarly, Liam, filming down in Philadelphia on cobblestone streets where the very heart of freedoms started, and this film being so much about those freedoms being taken away. How much did each of those impact you?
Harrison Ford: I didn’t work at the place you’re talking about, though it’s very impressive on screen. But I did also have a very impressive home that Robert found for me which I think informed my characterization in places where you see the character in his office and his home, I think that’s really important, so I cared a lot about that, but the character that I played was really created to help tell this story, further tell it, and the shades of his nature and how they were presented was part of the drama of the film. And, it was a great opportunity for me. I really enjoyed being in the film, working with Robert. It was a very good experience for me.
Liam Hemsworth: Philadelphia was great. I’ve never been there before and it was really interesting because it’s like a small New York, but it’s not as busy, and it’s easier to shoot a film in. We had a great time there, just a good city. What’s good about this film is that you’re getting an insight into this day in age, and how hard it is to keep things private. From your personal life to the internet, and how much information is able to be stolen so easily and so quickly.
Amber, your character mentions relationship qualities, for yourself, what kind of relationship qualities do you look for? Your character is so strong, are you yourself that same kind of strong and self-focused about things?
Amber Heard: Part of why I liked this character, Emma, was that she’s her own woman. She’s independent. She has a life outside of the relationship she ends up being a part of. I tend to like that in characters – a strength, an independence, a quality that sets them apart from their male counterparts. Which is not not easy for me to do in this business, but when you can find a strong character and a director that does want to protect the integrity of all characters, female and male, then it’s a good deal. That’s what I found on this one.
Liam Hemsworth: Amber’s character in the film is extremely intelligent, a little scary, and I would say that she’s pretty close to that in real life. She would come to set and she would be reading some interesting book that she would have conversations with me about where she would just say things that I didn’t understand. She’s intelligent in real life. I’d say almost as intelligent as the character [laughs]. Just about.
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So much of the movie is about being connected in today’s modern world, would each of you would be willing to share and characterize your own relationship with technology.
Robert Luketic: It’s terrifying. I was in Las Vegas yesterday and lost my iPhone, and I didn’t have a pass code on it. This is a whole thing going on right now. Don’t worry, you guys are all protected [laughs]. Honestly, I’ve been an early adopter of technology since I was a kid. It’s always been part of my life, it’s always been there, and this movie really sorta spoke to me, and something I’ve been sorta thinking about since Twitter, and since Facebook. All this data gathering, data finding, when I read the script I was like ‘oh my god, this is so timely.’ We didn’t realize how timely this was, given what’s happening with Snowden and all this other information. I realize now how powerful it is, and it’s interesting.
Amber Heard: I don’t think we’ve caught up with regards to mechanisms to protect information at the same rate as our ability to kinda gather that information. We haven’t caught up with a way to protect it and harbor it, nearly as quickly as we’ve learned to gather it, and I think that’s interesting. It could not be more relevant today in what’s going on today. The whole idea of personal privacy and liberty, and how that conflicts, or can conflict with a more omnipotent system of gathering, and what that says about individual liberties and how that’s confronted with protection.
Robert Luketic: Because everything you’ve ever written in an e-mail is now in a database. Just uncovered this morning, if you read this morning’s news.
Amber Heard: That’s exactly what’s so scary about it. That our personal liberties are always going to be in some conflict with our necessity to be protected. And those two serve as enemies to one another, as we see right now, especially now with Snowden. It’s an interesting question because it’s relevant right now.
Harrison Ford: One of the things that the film talks about which I think is to me the most interesting, because I’d always presumed there was no such thing as privacy, is that if you offer people something, or create a perceived need or value in a service that you offer, people will forget about, or they will want that newest wrinkle in technology, and will give up freedoms, their personal privacy, in order to have it. And that’s the nature of marketing, for this kind of device, or devices.
Liam Hemsworth: What I think is interesting too is that one of the biggest threats these days is cyber warfare, and how dangerous that is. They talk about terrorist groups now hacking into power plants and how all these things that are now run by computers, and everything’s connected. We’re all so connected by the internet and all this stuff, and all of a sudden you don’t have these things in place to protect it. We’ve advanced that technology so quickly that we haven’t thought about all the other repercussions of it.
For those of you who had a chance to work with Gary Oldman, I was wondering what it was like to work with him and especially Harrison, your face-off with him was pretty extraordinary, can you talk a little about that?
Harrison Ford: I worked with him, I guess it was about 20 years ago on Air Force One, and when I knew he was attached to this film, it was a big part of the draw. I enjoyed very much working with him in Air Force One, and I was looking forward to the opportunity to work with him again. He’s fun. You never know what’s he’s going to do – what’s he’s going to look like, who he’s going to be, and I enjoyed it.
Liam Hemsworth: It was great to sit there and watch Harrison and Gary go head-to-head, particularly in those last few scenes when we were in the room together. In the scene, my character watches, and in real life I watched, and it was just very exciting. You don’t know what either of them is going to do.
Robert Luketic: When these guys got together in that face-off scene, there was literally this tension in the air. It was very palpable, it was fantastic. Highlight of my career – so far.
You used the line a couple times in the film – ‘competition breeds innovation’ – I’m wondering for you how that has maybe applied to your own work, to your career. For Liam, this is a decidedly very adult, different role for you – What did you love about getting to dig your toes into this guy?
Liam Hemsworth: This is a completely different film than anything I’ve done before. I think what I initially related to was this kid has something that everyone can relate to. He’s trying to climb the ladder. He started at the bottom, and he’s been at the bottom for a while, and he’s kind of fed up with being there, and he’s kinda at the point where he’s got big ideas and big hopes and they don’t get him anywhere really, and all of a sudden he’s caught in a position where he’s being told to do something that he wouldn’t normally do. He starts going down this road and he starts buying into the whole life, and the power, and he gets a taste for it. And, I’ve always liked thrillers like this, and I try to find characters that I think are going to challenge me. This is definitely one of those.
Harrison Ford: The character’s presumptions about competition creating innovation I think are appropriate to the story that we’re telling and the world that he lives in. But you asked me something about acting, as well. Acting’s not about competing, acting’s about co-operating. Acting is about collaboration, it’s about utility, your usefulness. Your capacity to add to the work that has already been done and will be done. You’re just part of a team. So I never feel competitive about acting.
In the beginning of the film, Liam’s character says something about how it used to be that if you worked hard, you became successful. This isn’t true in real life anymore either, so how do each of you see future generations of young kids coming up wanting to be successful. How has the value of hard work changed?
Robert Luketic: For me there very much is a generation that as we say in the movie, was promised a lot of things. If you went to college, you’re going to get a great job. As we’ve seen with the economic down turn, and the greed of certain sectors of the corporate world, it’s not so. So we had to make sorta the lost generation. There is a youth, there is a movement I think, that wants very much to offer a hope and promise, and I think the moral in our story is not to go to the dark side, because ultimately that kind of cutthroat ruthlessness is not going to service you on a spiritual level. Don’t do what those have done before you.
Liam Hemsworth: In the end, Adam realizes that he has to get out with his wit, and with his intelligence, but also he has to do the right thing – and regardless of the consequences. I think you would like to hope that you work hard at something, you get somewhere. I guess that’s not always the case – but sticking to good morals and good values would be the key to it.
Lucas Till: Hard work always win, in the end. I’d kinda like to throw a reference about the movie, but I haven’t actually seen it, so I’m at a loss. But yeah, I’ll reiterate that hard work always wins.
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I got the impression that in this movie it’s more about ambition versus moral compass, rather than privacy. Can you speak to how that works?
Robert Luketic: I think that it’s tough. I approach my work and what I do as a good person. I like people that are good, that have good intentions. I believe you can be successful without having to sacrifice that position. And that’s the sorta character that I was attracted to in this piece. He does make very moral decisions, in fact he betrays who he is. Essentially gives up everything that anchors him in in the world, and has supported him in the world, to have this fantasy, this illusion, of what life on the other side of the river would be like. I found that it was an interesting dichotomy between all those things.
Amber Heard: I don’t think that ambition and morality are mutually exclusive. I think it would be pedantic to assume that we have to choose between them, even in movies. We’re compelled by characters that have to face such decisions.
Robert Luketic: And, make mistakes, that are not black-and-white, that are not perfect.
Amber Heard: You would have to struggle for everything including your characters, they have to struggle as well. I don’t think that ambition or morality need to be mutually exclusive, or are.
I like the fact that all the characters were really strong, that’s really important to me when you see a good thriller like this. Amber, your character is a strong female, determined, hard going, and just driven, and I really like that. What did you like about your character? Mr. Ford, you’re on that borderline of staying close to that technology but at the same time you need that younger generation to keep business going. What was that like?
Amber Heard: I was drawn to Emma because she’s independent. She desires a future for herself that she, and only she is responsible for. I love that she’s trying to prove herself in a world that’s not necessarily set-up to accept her, or accept her easily. She’s going into a field that is still very much a male-dominated world and she’s doing so and relying on nothing but her own strength, her own wit, her own ability, to succeed. Nothing else. She’s not copping out in any way, and I liked that about her – strength, independence are always something that I’m drawn to in all my characters, no matter how different they are from one another – strength and a sense of independence, both in their character and in their position in the movie. Those are pretty much the standard things I look for. Plus, Robert has a long history of directing women who stand on their own two feet, no matter what their individual characters are. They are all women that are not determined by how the male characters around them perceive them. He has a history of protecting us as women, so I felt like I was in good hands.
Harrison Ford: For me, a character is made up of all those things that help tell a story. In my own experience, which helps me string it all together, this is a character who’s preceded in his appearance onscreen by a body of information about him – who he is, what he is, how he’s behaved in the past. So I wanted my first appearance onscreen to complicate that. Robert was wonderfully collaborative about things like that. When I showed up with a shaved head, he was OK with that. When I said I wanted to wear blue jeans and a t-shirt to my fancy house backyard party, he was OK with that. Those are the kind of things which I use to help describe a complicated character. The guy’s bad, bad to the bone – but there’s no fun in seeing that presented in that way, so I thought there were interesting opportunities in the construction of the script and the sophistication of the filmmakers that would allow me to create a character different then what I’ve played before.
Could you comment on how the final film compared to what you originally envisioned.
Robert Luketic: I’ve said this before, whenever I’m asked about this. For me movie making, especially in this day in age and on the budget-level we worked on, is a process of compromise. What is up here [taps forehead], is expensive to put out. I always look at my movies and I see where the compromises are very magnified, and remember I’ve watched it a thousand times before I sat here in front of you. I read the book, I actually got the screenplay first, then I read the book and so in terms of the adaptation to screen process – the book was written in a time when we weren’t in this socioeconomic quandary that we’re in, and the technology wasn’t quite what it became, the monster that it became, so it was written in a different time. Part of the adaptation was about updating that, and I think we did a good job in that regards. In terms of the scale of what I wanted, to be able to shoot in New York City and do all that kind of stuff, that’s always a filmmakers’ pain. That’s just part of life. I’m not one of those directors that gets unlimited resources to make things with. But given what we had, I’m so proud of what this cast did.
You guys played with mobiles, electronics, and computers. Harrison, your character built radios. Did you grow up tech or electronic nerds, or did you build anything when you were a kid, or where did you draw inspiration for that?
Liam Hemsworth: When I found out that I was going to do this film, my character has a scene where he takes apart a number of phones and does numerous things to them. So I got some old phones and I took them apart, and [laughs] that’s about all I did. I took them apart, and couldn’t even put them back together. I couldn’t say that I’m as smart as Adam, in that way.
Harrison Ford: I grew up in the stone age.
Robert Luketic: But you fly sophisticated jet aircraft.
Harrison Ford: That’s the one thing in which I have developed some capacity because that’s something I wanted. But, I don’t want to be a slave to electronic devices. I don’t want to be connected to my friends. I don’t want to send snapshots of my dog and cute pictures of my family life to my friends and family. I don’t want to be liked, by pushing a button. I use all of this technology to basically replace devices that I had in the past which worked just fine.
Amber Heard: Like smoke signals.
Harrison Ford: I don’t really use it for very much. I like books. I don’t like to read things on the internet. Anyways, I don’t have much of a connection.
Lucas Till: Do you remember those AM radio kits you get when you’re a kid and you build your own AM radio? Well, I never actually built one. But I did get them as a gift, for like 3 Christmas’s in a row, and I hated them. It’s just like guitar, anything that takes too long. I always really had a grasp of technology but it takes too much time for me to spend as much time as I think Kevin does in the movie tweaking things. As far as that’s concerned, I don’t think I share that much with the character.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank everyone for their time. Be sure to check out Paranoia when it hits theatres on August 16th!Previous