For any film buff, the chance to pick the brain of someone as famous as Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Sir Ben Kingsley probably seems like a distant yet enticing dream. For me, it’s a reality.
As the lucky representative of the New University, I was picked from a handful of other journalists from colleges and universities around the country to attend a New York press conference for the new Scorsese film “Shutter Island” which would include the opportunity to interview the director himself, as well as the film’s stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sir Ben Kingsley. At the press conference, I along with many other television, newspaper and magazine writers discussed with the stars and directors the filmmaking process that went into his most recent picture.
When asked about what his process was like going into this film, Scorsese responded with a chuckle. “In my mind I still haven’t quite finished it,” Scorsese said. “Basically it was from reading Laeta Kalogradis’ script based on [Dennis] Lehane’s novel and from the reaction I had to reading the script as to the world that I imagined as I was reading it, and how it turned out to be, how it was revealed to me … it’s something that intrigued me a great deal, primarily the saga that Teddy [the main character, played by Dicaprio] goes through, and the conflict that’s inherent. In any event, I think I just tried to approach it from my own reaction to reading the material.” Scorsese remarked on the process he went through; “I didn’t quite know where we would be at any given time, I think we discovered this as we went along … it was a process of discovery throughout, and that includes the editing, that doesn’t mean I knew it was going to be a process of discovery, I had an intimation of that, I didn’t know how much it would be.”
DiCaprio discussed his first impressions of the film; “I was very intrigued by this screenplay, it was very much a throwback to great detective dramas of the past like ‘Vertigo’… at first glance it was very much a thriller genre piece with twists and turns that worked on many different layers but you know, like he was just saying there was this discovery for us while making the movie ands this process, of, once we started to unravel who this man was and his past and what he had been through and the nature of what was going on on Shutter Island.” The process of filming, DiCaprio said, “took us to places that there was no way we could have foreseen. It got darker and darker and more emotionally intense than we ever expected. That was a real surprise for both of us making this movie at first glance you read something on the page and it can seem one way and you can have your decisions set on what that scene means, but before that, there is no way to really understand it, and in that way it was the best type of movie to do.”
The film was certainly emotionally deep and intense. Even DiCaprio was surprised by the results of the film. “We were surprised at the end of the day, by the depth of the material. This film is a thriller with surprise endings and terrifying elements to it and is very much a genre piece but at the end of the day it is what Scorsese does best and that is portraying something about humanity and human nature and about who we are as people, and that’s what makes it stand out and be different from a normal genre piece.”
“What emerged [from the process] was an extraordinary degree of tenderness between the characters … it looks like a thriller [but] what holds it together is varying levels of tenderness. That is an ingredient you can’t rehearse and can’t anticipate and can only be brought together by the director,” Sir Kingsley remarked. Summing up the “Shutter Island” experience succinctly, he remarked; “The miracle of filmmaking is that actually you make something out of nothing, there’s nothing there at all, and then our collective imaginations create something that fill cinemas.”