D.J. Caruso Talks Paranoia Themes in "I Am Number Four," Kings of Leon and Pearl Jam's "Ten"
Thu, 16 Dec 2010 10:37:33
I Am Number Four is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing films due in theaters this winter.
Director D.J. Caruso's adaptation of the Pittacus Lore novel of the same name follows John [Alex Pettyfer]. John may pretend that he's "normal," but he's on the run from an otherworldly foe that's trying to eradicate him because of his secrets. There are three just like John that have already fallen prey, and now he's "Number Four."
High school is enough aggravation as it is. Add an alien threat and growing up becomes exponentially more difficult…
Caruso embraces the intricacies of the original text, allowing the actors to deeply immerse themselves in these characters within the landscape of a sci-fi thriller. The film has all the trappings of a big budget romp, but it's got a coming-of-age story that hits equally hard. That's all evident from the trailer, and we can't wait to see the final film on February 18th, 2011.
I Am Number Four director D.J. Caruso sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about the film, his favorite music and more.
Was it important for you to allow the viewers to get close to the characters themselves within this sci-fi backdrop?
It's really important! No matter what genre you're working in as a filmmaker, you must have compelling characters. That way, when you get to this fantastical element, you really care about the characters as they're going through these experiences—particularly when the movie starts to borderline a thriller. I always think the best thrillers are when you really care about the characters. It's stating the obvious, but sometimes I think people tend to forget that because you have certain scenarios and setups. If you don't care about these people and spend the time in act one to really got to know them, then everything else that happens at the end might be cool, but viewers don't really get involved.
Well, you highlight these emotional elements within the landscape of all these visual fireworks.
It's an interesting structure. If you've read the book, you know that it really doesn't become explosive until you get to the end. In the movie, it's act three. It was really an intriguing character study because the expectations of the genre are for more action sequences along the way. It is a character piece. However, when Four and Six [Teresa Palmer] start to work together, you get to see why they wanted these nine kids to be together because of what they can do. There's a thriller element, but the action is a blast.
Did you aim to convey a theme of paranoia?
John is definitely in fear. He's this grifter who basically doesn't understand what his greater calling is. He understands there is a greater calling. However, all the sacrifices that Henri [Timothy Olyphant] made don't necessarily pertain to his life or the life that he can remember. Ultimately, he discovers this. Once he realizes Number Three has been killed and the pressure picks up a little bit, it was a fine line for me as a filmmaker. Here's this guy who's still trying to live a normal life and go to school, while he's waiting for some of these legacies. When they ultimately kick in, it works out. He doesn't feel it as much as the audience does. It might be part of his makeup. As an audience member, you're seeing the Mogodorians arrive in Florida. You know John left Florida, and here he is falling in love. I think you have that anxiety as a viewer as well.
The anxiety of growing up that he faces definitely makes the movie relatable.
You definitely want to make it relatable to the wider audience. There are universal themes of first love, sacrifices Henry might've made and ultimately, at the end of the story, he has to make a choice. That choice probably isn't the choice he would've made at the beginning, but he has a crucial realization.
Does I AM NUMBER FOUR remind you of any songs? Were you playing anything on set in particular?
We were playing a lot of music on set. In fact, the soundtrack is something I'm quite proud of. It seems to be coming together really well. There are some really cool bands that I've been admiring. When I first heard this one Civil Twilight song six or seven months ago, I knew it was the end of the movie. I was playing that. I love music, and it was a bigger part of Disturbia than it was Eagle Eye. We had The Airborne Toxic Event in Eagle Eye before they broke. When you've got the freedom of dealing with 18- and 19-year-olds as a filmmaker, you get the freedom to really play with music you love. There's some new Jimmy Eat World. There's that element of the high school love relationship where the music works really well.
Music is always a big part of your films.
System of a Down's "Lonely Day" was in Disturbia, and they don't license to anybody. I had to show them the movie. They really dug it! We got Kings of Leon in Disturbia and they don't really license to anybody. We're talking about doing something with them for this movie too. I've been really fortunate!
Who is usually on your playlist?
I love old school grunge rock. I love old Pearl Jam, and I really love Nirvana. I'm more of an alt rock guy with KROQ. I think the new Kings of Leon is great. I think Brandon Flowers' new CD is fucking awesome. It grows on you! It's a deep record. You realize that it's one piece of art. The first time I listened to it, it seemed to be bouncing a little bit. The weirdest fucking things happen to me. My kids think I'm crazy. I saw Zac Brown warm up Dave Matthews, and I was like, "This guy's fucking really good!" In my car, I've got Brandon Flowers and the new Kings of Leon. I heard some really cool tracks from Adele. Her new tracks aren't like her old tracks. Rick Rubin produced these, and they're quite amazing! That's one thing I feel really fortunate about, I get to hear things early.
Which grunge albums do you come back to?
When you go back to Ten, it's incredible. Ten is such a great deep album. I listen to "Black." They're a dynamic rock band. I listened to it religiously in the early '90s. I really still dig The Foo Fighters. They have a new album coming out in the spring, and it's going to be incredible.
Are there any sequences you're particularly proud of in the film?
There are some things that aren't in the trailer particularly the Pikin and some of the monsters the Mogodorians are using. I've never done a CG character before. Working and developing the CG characters with ILM. I'm quite proud of that. It's really fun. I think the other thing too is we have really cool strong women. Number Six is a kickass female character that's really strong. Diana plays a really positive outsider. Those are the things I'm most proud of.
Will you be seeing I Am Number Four?