Roundtable Interview With Director Ariel Vromen On The Iceman

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“Were there jokes surrounding that ponytail on set?”

Ariel Vromen: Mainly from Ray Liotta. If you ask Ray Liotta what the hardest thing [on The Iceman] was, he’ll say “scenes with Schwimmer.” But I think he just said it because the line works.

We then asked Ariel what the hardest part about filming The Iceman was for him:

Ariel Vromen: I think waiting for Michael Shannon, because once I decided I wanted Shannon we had to find a way to finance it, and because Michael Shannon is so busy, he goes from Boardwalk Empire to a movie, then back to a play, than another movie, and we had all those stations we had to wait because he was already committed to them. Then Man Of Steel came in and that was a big push, so we really had to wait for that.

I think waiting for the availability of Mike was waiting for years. I can remember one year of my life where we were ready to go and we just had to completely stop.

I think the other part was working on the tightly restrained budget and schedule, because we shot this movie in less than 30 days and for a relatively small amount of money especially when you’re talking about a period piece. This is the 60s, 70s, and 80s being shot in Shreveport, Louisiana and it’s supposed to look like New Jersey, that’s something that’s not easy. Everything is tough about making a movie, it’s never easy.

Bringing up Shreveport, we asked Ariel what down-time was like when the production stopped for the night:

Ariel Vromen: [Laughs] One steakhouse, one Italian restaurant, that’s about it. There’s nothing much to do in Shreveport. It’s a college town, there’s some things going on, but I don’t know. I like to live with the key people when I’m doing a movie, just my editor and my cinematographer, some of my production, and we all live together in the same house, almost like a Frat house, when we’re making a movie. When we finish filming we come back and everyone is watching dailies together, it’s a lot of fun actually. Cooking dinner, it’s more like a family, we didn’t go out that much.

At the end of the day you had to race for the steakhouse though, because there was only one really good steakhouse. That was downtime.

Curious about how Ariel decided on the material he included in The Iceman, I asked him the following question: “Now when you were looking at all the reference material on The Iceman, how did you decided which details made it to the movie and what wouldn’t have been a good fit?

Ariel Vromen: Like every movie there are scenes that work and scenes that don’t, or there might even be a good scene that just doesn’t fit the story, it’s throwing you into a different direction. You’re watching the cut and whether it’s too long or too short, too diverse, too boring, so on.

We had a whole Thanksgiving scene that you only saw a little bit of in a montage, but there was a whole scene of [Deborah’s] family and Kuklinski, how he interacts and feels so vulnerable around a family, so it was a really good scene, but it became on over-exposition in the first act – you got the point. Sometimes with the subtleness of us as an audience from watching so many movies, we come in to see the films and get things just by seeing a few scenes, we don’t need to be fed with information.

On the page though that doesn’t work. They say “Oh no, we want more, more exposition, more understanding,” so you write all those scenes and then don’t end up using them. This script went through so many drafts, the whole first act in the beginning, well we were writing about his childhood for 20 pages, so we had from his upbringing to his first murder when he was 16 years old. In the end this went away though, you just try and be sensitive.

Finishing up, we asked Ariel if he found anything surprising after looking back at the whole story of The Iceman:

Ariel Vromen: It surprised me that as human beings we still find compassion and some kind of an empathy towards other human beings no matter what they do. I think in the film, just from the reactions that I’ve been seeing, people find a certain connection with Kuklinski, they want to see him correct himself and make the right choice in the end. They’re satisfied a little when he gets arrested, but they wish he did differently. They wish there was a moment in the film where he had enough, and they will forgive him.

That ability for us to forgive others is something I even take myself, you can take the high road. If you can forgive people, that’s pretty amazing.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ariel for his time, and be sure to catch his film The Iceman when it opens May 3rd!