Interview: Cary Fukanaga

Jane Eyre is soon to be released on to DVD, in light of this Chelsey was able to get an exclusive interview with the movie's director - Cary Fukanaga. 

What makes Mia so special and right for the role?

Obviously, she's very talented. She's from a small town in Australia and she took it upon herselfto go out and see if someone would represent her and submit her for castings. I think she showsthat luck is only part of it, because if she wasn't good she wouldn't have got the roles. There'ssomething ‘old soul’ about her, something highly intellectual. She has a face that's not really timelessbut ageless, like she could be a teenager or she could be a young adult. You can't really place her inthat way and there is something about her that the camera just loves, and that's one in a million.

Is that what you needed for Jane Eyre?

Not necessarily. That's part of the reason she's taken off, but what I was looking for were thingsthat I think are inherent in her personality. There's the intelligence, there's the observation, there'sthe curiosity and there's that fire. Those are all things I needed for Jane Eyre, as well as the fact shewas the right age.

Is it true you were interested in Jane Eyre before this project came to you?

Yes. The project didn’t come to me, I sought the project out. At one point in 2007, I was interestedin adapting the story on my own and I had a meeting with the BBC. They mentioned that Jane Eyrewas on their slate and I asked to see the script. I liked the script and met with the writer and theproducer, and it just happened really quickly. I also liked the idea of staying in London and making amovie there, so it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Is that how you normally find your projects, by seeking them out?

Yes, very rarely does someone show me something and I choose it. Usually I've ended up findingthe things that I like. I think that's the way it has to be. Things find each other too, you just happen tohave the right meeting. I'm not totally a fatalist, but I do kind of believe that if you're on the right pathyou kind of know it, like the signs are there.

Were you convinced Michael Fassbender was right for the role as soon as you met him?

I thought he was a star as soon as I saw him in Hunger. I was like “this guy, there's no one else likehim right now”. He was definitely my only choice.

What were some of the biggest challenges making this film?

Films these days are very gruelling in terms of time, because every minute counts. It was little bitbreezy and sunny the day we were filming the sequence when Jane’s supposed to be showing up at the house after trudging across the marshy moors in three days of rain. But there was bright sunshineand no clouds and we're like, ‘How are we going to shoot this?’ But you've just got to do it and hopeto make it work in post-production. I don't think there's such a thing as an easy film to make and justbecause it's a great experience shooting a film doesn't mean it's a great film. And when you are on afilm and everything seems challenging and everything has an issue attached to it, that's par for thecourse. As a director most of your time is spent putting out fires.

So what was the most difficult scene to shoot?

You should probably ask what was the easy scene to shoot, because every scene had its challenges.We were shooting when the volcano was going off in Iceland, which meant planes stopped running,which meant film shipments stopped, which meant our film stocks were dwindling. There were noplanes in the sky, but now that there were no planes in the sky, people were using chainsaws to chopdown their trees next door, or there were insects buzzing everywhere. Every scene had its challenges!

What surprised you the most about Mia Wasikowska?

You never know what's going to happen on a set or what a performance is going to be like until youstart shooting it. We were running out of time to shoot the last scene of the day where Jane meetsSt. John Rivers in the moor and says, ‘I'll go to India with you but I won't marry you’. It's an importantscene and it's a dramatic scene. You see a bit of St. John Rivers’ true side and we’d shot about three-quarters of the scene and it was a misty, overcast afternoon, and then suddenly the sun broke outand we had a lot more to cover. Mia was giving a lot to the scene, it was really emotional and we hadto say, “OK, we'll need to re-shoot a bunch of stuff” and she did it and just got better and better. She'stireless in that way, and maybe that's part of youth, but when she turns it on, it's just an incredibleperformance - and that was just day one!

Do you think the younger generation will become interested in Jane Eyre because of your film?

My cousin, Camilla, is thirteen and she came out to a screening. Her mom told me as soon as shefinished watching the film that she went home and bought Jane Eyre and now she's halfway throughthe book and obsessed with it. So I think that it's one of those books that either it really moves youwhen you're young, or it doesn't do anything for you at all. I've had friends who are like, “I didn't likeJane Eyre, I thought Rochester was horrible and I didn't understand her decision in the end.” Thenthere are some women who are like “that book just changed my life!” So it’s good that it can beinspiring and get young women to read the book.

What makes this story a classic that keeps being re-told?

There's a very universal aspect to the story, just the whole nature and character of Jane facing somany challenges growing up, and to still end up being such a passionate, strong-willed adult whounderstands her own worth. I mean, you can ask this question in terms of what makes it modern andwhat makes it relevant: How many people today would walk away from an imperfect love to savetheir own dignity? So many people are so starved of love and companionship that they would neverwalk away from that and to have that strength makes her such an incredible sort of example.

Is she bothered by the morality or the dishonesty?

He lied to her; he wasn't honest with her, so there were a lot of things that were happening there.

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

Whenever people came into the editing room and I’d show them scenes, I’d show the scene wherethe little girl Adele sings the song. Then Judi Dench's character says, “How very French”! It's just sucha creepy weird scene, this girl singing this love song!

How was working with Dame Judi Dench?

That was awesome. I was excited and terrified, all at once, because I had to direct Judi Dench.What do you say to her when she’s worked with everybody? But her agent helped when he said, ‘Judireally actually likes direction’. She is tireless and so much fun on set. It was such a pleasure to haveworked with her.

You graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History. Is that why you like period films?

Definitely, but I was interested in making movies when I was in college and didn't think someonethat grew up in a middle-class family with nobody working in movies could make it. I was alwaysfascinated by these characters and tales I was reading about in history. When reading I would alwaysfootnote or put in the margins “Oh, this would be a really cool movie one day”. But I also think interms of writing it's a good approach because writing is mostly research, even when writing fictionalstories. But when you're writing an essay in history, you're doing a lot of work and figuring out whythese icons in history did what they did. It's a great character study, so I think it translates really wellto making movies.

Is it true that you shot Jane Eyre in the same location as other Jane Eyre movies?

Yes, we were at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire. It was used in Zeffirelli's version and in the 2006 one,and it was used in another version too, I’ve been told. At first I was a little bit wary of using somethingsomeone else had already used, but once you start looking at the other homes, that house wasperfect and is very foreboding.

Was the film mostly shot on location or did you have any visual effects?

We had a ton of CG in our movie! We had hundreds of effects shots. Things like removing electricalpoles and extensions of railroads, and the crossroads. It wasn't easy but often the weather forced usto use CG, when it was a bright sunny day and we had to make it look stormy or even when we had toproduce a great sunrise. Civilization was just on the edge-of-frame all the time and we couldn’t avoidit.

Did you like the locations?

I probably visited while location scouting twenty times, and each time the weather was different.I wound up feeling like I owned those rocks. Or hanging out in Haddon Hall for two months, youfeel like you're the lord of the manor for a while and then you leave and you realise that's not yourhome. We were incredibly lucky to have access to these houses, because they're beautiful homes. I'vealways loved history, old objects and antiques, and growing up in California you just don't have it –even the state Capital is only a hundred and fifty years old!

Were you trying to put your own stamp on this film or be true to the material?

I'm way more attracted to classic styles of cinema. Even Sin Nombre for me was more a classic styleof cinema. If you watch the film it's more like 1970s style, it was more like I was emulating a classicfilm than emulating City of God. So that was my inspiration, to be classic, not edgy.

Did you watch other Jane Eyre movies?

No, I've seen little clips from Jane Eyre, and I watched the Orson Welles one again, because Ihaven't seen it in twenty years, but other than that, not much at all.

What made you feel confident telling a woman’s story?

I guess I'm surrounded by women on the production side, with my editor and set decorator andpretty much everybody I work with! I also trust Mia to know that we're getting an honest version ofthis moment. I think anyone who does art or is trying to create things has to be in touch with theiremotional side, because that's what you're tapping into. I don't think you make art tapping into yourintellectual side. There is such a thing as conceptual art, but it's not for me.

So you’re not attracted to doing blockbusters?

I was never that guy in high school; I was into history and weird sort of Luddite hobbies. Myfavourite movies growing up were probably Tron, which was more boyish, or Empire of the Sun.

 
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  • Watched the DVD yesterday (that I won-THANKS Chelsey) and I loved it! The acting and locations were excellent. He is a talented director - created great drama.
  • New Member says
    Your interview with Cary Fukanaga has gone so well, I'm really pleased. I was going through the edusson review where I heard about all her contributions to the Jane Eyre script. She's a really nice actress.

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