The last time we talked, you told me that your background as a CEO helped you learn about collaboration. How did that apply to your work on “Jules”?
It’s true on every film. Directors get far too much credit. There are 100-plus people that are participating in making the film, and the director’s job is to make sure we all see the same movie. So, for me, that’s one of the joys of making movies. You’re working with a team, and you’re collaborating. Sometimes one of you will make a mistake, and then someone else will pick it up, and then it’ll flip, and it’s just the opposite. And that’s one of the real joys. Plus, you get to work with all these experts at things that I’m not an expert at. Cinematography, production, design, costumes, all these different elements. I love being able to participate, even if it’s around the margin.
Your title character is an alien but very different looking from some of the scarier aliens we’ve seen in movies. What was your goal in designing the character?
It starts with the screenplay. In my mind, I envisioned an alien, not a creature. And most movies which have something coming from another place, they’re creatures, they’re fearsome with sharp nails and teeth. That’s not at all what this alien is. That interested me very much because then the alien can play as a catalyst for what really is the heart of the movie, which is the connection between these three main [human] characters. And that’s what appealed to me about Jules, that it is a catalyst for connection. It helps them to connect to Jules, and then later to connect with one another.
Two different elements. So, for the physical design, I worked with the folks who did the prosthetics, and I worked with my production designer, Richard Hoover. And I told Richard, “I want this to be practical, but more than just practical, I don’t want it to be CGI.” As Sir Ben Kingsley said, “I’m so glad that we’re not going to act against the ball on top of a stick.” I wanted to have a real alien, and I wanted to have a real [space] ship. And so, for Richard, we talked about the goal in the very beginning. He began drawing pictures of the spaceship. I said, think about “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Flash Gordon,” and these classic ’50s and ’60s movies. That was our reference. Because otherwise, it would have been too contemporary, and I wanted it to feel like a classic science fiction movie.