Limitless, hitting theatres March 18th, is Neil Burger’s latest film and it stars Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish. Based on Alan Glynn’s novel The Dark Fields, the movie follows Bradley Cooper’s character Eddie Mora, a down and out writer who takes an experimental drug that allows him to unlock the full potential of his brain, allowing him to do things he never thought were possible.
As director Neil Burger puts it, the film asks tough questions such as “if you can get a nose job does it mean you should get a brain job? If it’s chemically possible is it the right thing to do? What would you do?” I haven’t read the novel but the film looks really interesting and I’ve been hooked since I saw the trailer.
Recently, we got a chance to speak with Mr. Burger and we talked to him about the film, how he got involved, the casting process, the title change and more. Check it out below. Audio version included at the end of the page.
We Got This Covered: Hey, how are you?
Neil Burger: Good, good.
WGTC: Firstly, we just wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We really appreciate it.
NB: My pleasure.
WGTC: To start off, why don’t you tell us what the film is about, in your own words.
NB: It’s about Eddie Mora, a down and out writer, played by Bradley Cooper. He is at the end of his rope, he’s failing and about to give up. He then runs into an old friend of his who tells him that he’s working for a pharmaceutical company. He tells him about an experimental pill that Eddie can take to get over his creative hump. So Eddie takes it and it works. Not in any sci-fi or superhero way. It’s just like steroids for the brian. He becomes the best version of himself. He finishes his book, moves on into finance and then politics. The movie is really about intelligence and human potential but also about power. It stars Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish,
WGTC: Now the film is based on the book The Dark Fields. Were you familiar with the novel before you came on board?
NB: I only read it afterwards, after they came to me with the script. I really liked the script. It was kind of a crazy, off the walls story. After reading the script I went back to the novel and it was really good.
WGTC: How long have you been attached to the project? It’s been around for a while, I remember back in 2008 Shia LaBeouf was set to star in it.
NB: Ya, I was part of that. I finished The Lucky Ones at the start of 2008 and then they came to me with Limitless. I got Shia involved but then he dropped out of it and then we turned aorund and luckily Bradley Cooper’s star was rising and we got him into the movie. So I’ve been involved since 2008.
WGTC: Why did it take so long to get to the big screen?
NB: It was around even before 2008. I just don’t think they ever found the right kind of creative combination of director and actor to bring it to the big screen. I came on board and was really into it and excited about it. I had a lot of cool ideas about how to bring it to life visually and narrativley. Then we were lucky enough to get Bradley involved and sometimes it’s just one of those things where the stars align and it just happened. We feel pretty good about it now. The stars aligned for us. Look at Black Swan, Darren had the idea for that 10 years ago. Sometimes it just takes time.
WGTC: While you were adapting it, did you stay faithful to it?
NB: Well Leslie Dixon wrote the screenplay and I worked with her on re-writing it. This is the first thing I hadn’t written actually. I’ve written all my other films. So at first I was a bit reluctant to do it. I always thought of myself as a writer/director. But it was such a good script that I decided to do it. And it was liberating to do it, as a director, to just go off and running with the words on the page. Leslie stayed faithful to certain parts but she kind of took off with the ending. But she improved it for the movie, which is a different beast than the novel.
WGTC: Was it strange not writing the film, since you’re so used to writing your own movies? Was it tougher to direct?
NB: Ya, it was weird at first. There is that feeling you get when you write it. When you write the film you technically are the author of it. You’re the ultimate authority on that subject and you have a certain kind of power. But on the other hand, sometimes when you write it, you’re stuck with that original idea. You’re like ‘I always thought that this scene would take place in a warehouse and so I still want to do it that way.’ But when you’re only directing it, it doesn’t need to be in a warehouse, it could be in a theatre or office. You have more freedom because you’re not stuck with the original idea. You can make the scene better and more intense.
WGTC: Tell us about the casting. You were saying you got Bradley, and Robert and Abbie. How did they all come on board?
NB: Well Bradley came on after certain other things fell apart. But it was actually a blessing. Sometimes your first choice isn’t always available. But when Bradley’s star began to rise he was suddenly available to us. He’s a guy who the producers and I were always aware of in the past, and always really liked. After The Hangover, we could use him, and it was incredibly exciting and lucky for us. As for De Niro, he’s obviously always one’s first choice to play a powerful character. And with Abbie, I saw her in a movie called Bright Star and I just knew she should be the one to play Lindy. It was just one of those things where we got very lucky with our choices. I got everything I wanted out of the cast.
WGTC: Did you collaborate with the author of The Dark Fields, Alan Glynn, at all on the film?
NB: No. He didn’t play any part in the film. He sold the rights to Leslie Dixon. She became friends with him and he’s a great guy but he didn’t help out with the movie. It’s two different things and she kind of took the novel and ran with it. It’s fairly different from the novel in a lot of ways. But it really works for the film. He came to the set a few times and I think he enjoyed what he saw.
WGTC: The original title was The Dark Fields, why was it changed?
NB: Well people would get to the end and they wouldn’t know why it was called The Dark Fields. And they weren’t necessarily wrong. It’s a very obscure title. The title ‘The Dark Fields’ is from a Great Gatsby quote but it’s hard to get your head around and understand how it relates to the movie. So I think the studio and all of us felt reluctant to let The Dark Fields go but I do like Limitless. It’s more expressive of what the movie is about.
WGTC: Now for those unfamiliar with the book and film, would you recommend checking out either one first, either reading the book or seeing the film first?
NB: It doesn’t matter. I’d see the movie first though and then read the novel. They’re different in a way. The movie comes out March 18th so you should check it out.
WGTC: Can you tell us about your future projects?
NB: I have a number of screenplays that I’ve written that are all pending and waiting to pop right now. I’m not quite sure which one will be next. It’s a diffcult time in the film business. It’s hard to get things made. On one hand you have personal projects and on the other hand you have big blockbuster like movies. It’s an interesting negotiation to figure out which one will click first and which one to do next.
WGTC: Any final words?
NB: Ya. Just the whole idea of this pill making you rich and powerful. It’s an issue, this idea of steroids for the brain. If you can get a nose job does it mean you should get a brain job? If it’s chemically possible is it the right thing to do? What would you do?
WGTC: Thank you very much for talking to us and good luck with the film!
NB: Thanks man.