INTERVIEW: John Crowley, director of “Brooklyn”

10 11 2015

Recently, I’ve begun contributing some pieces to Movie Mezzanine, a site run by a lot of people who started with WordPress blogs like this one back in the late 2000s/early 2010s. If the page isn’t on your radar, put it there. Tons of really great writers post some provocative, insightful scholarship there is out there on the Internet.

A nice perk of being able to post there is the incredible doors it opens for me to talk with some amazing talent. The latest of such is John Crowley, director of the new film “Brooklyn.” My full review is coming soon, although the interview has already been posted over at Movie Mezzanine. You can read about how the Dardennes influenced the film as well as how Crowley works with established cinematography teams and upstart young actors.

I work with an editor over there who provides valuable feedback, such as where pieces can be truncated. A few questions were omitted from the interview as it ran on Movie Mezzanine, but I wanted to give my good and faithful readers here at Marshall and the Movies a chance to read them!

John Crowley Brooklyn

These questions were asked at the beginning of the interview.

MARSHALL

I got to see the film at the New York Film Festival, and it really played like gangbusters with my theater – in particular some of the humor about the ethnic groups. Was it comforting to to have those screenings go over well?

JOHN CROWLEY

It was very satisfying, during one of the Q&As, somebody said, “How many weeks did you shoot in New York for?” And I was able to say, “Two days.” It [the question] was a bit of a gaffe, so that felt like we were able to pass muster.

You never know what’s going to play with what audience. It’s been fascinating as we’ve been doing the rounds and watching what audiences take away from it, but it felt like the New York audience was able to embrace the film and make it theirs.

MARSHALL

Why was the choice made to premiere the film at Sundance?  Obviously that’s one of the best launching pads for any movies, but you don’t normally see films so classically made there. [Fox Searchlight does not include the Sundance Film Festival’s laurels in any of the marketing materials for Brooklyn.]

 JOHN CROWLEY

I think it was about timing, basically. I don’t know that there was a huge strategic decision behind it. We finished the film in December [2014], and depending on the calendar of when you finish it, people go for the next festival. Sundance was that next one.

We didn’t think we wanted to wait until Cannes – it didn’t particularly feel like a Cannes film even though, I agree, it didn’t feel like a Sundance film either. So when it was submitted to Sundance, I thought they might go, “Oh, this isn’t enough of whatever we want.” It might not be edgy enough; it might not be indie enough.  And that wasn’t their response. They were very happy to have the film there.

So that was the main reason. I don’t think any of us really wanted to sit on it for six months and then try and do something with Telluride and Toronto.

Saoirse Ronan Brooklyn

The following was at the tail end of our conversation.

MARSHALL

Ok, one last question – is there an area of Brooklyn that hasn’t been addressed on the press tour that you’d like to talk about?

JOHN CROWLEY

Oh, gosh – that’s a question I’ve never been asked.

No, not necessarily. People have commented on the quality of the entire cast, which is rather lovely. Down to every last part, it was lovingly stitched together. That was a great joy, building this rather beautiful mosaic and wanting every part to be vivid and real.

MARSHALL

I even felt sympathy for Dolores [a minor character at Eilis’ boarding home in Brooklyn, roundly despised by all the other girls] – she was so sweet even as she was annoying.

JOHN CROWLEY

Yes, exactly. That’s a wonderful performance from Jane Murray. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from her.

I can’t honestly say there is [a question I haven’t gotten to answer]. You’ve asked the most surprising question by asking what hasn’t been talked about.

MARSHALL

I always want to give people the chance to answer the right question.  If there’s one question that I can ask to help someone’s vision shine through, I want to ask it. 

JOHN CROWLEY

The style in which I did it was almost invisible; that’s why I don’t necessarily describe myself as an auteur. I don’t try to put myself forward in the frame. I say look at this rather than look at me. That’s the thing that informs everything that I do.

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One response

11 11 2015
Ricardo

What an honor. Congratulations!
I really like when you ask him if there is something he would like to discuss that has not been touched on before.

I’ve written a few articles for Cracked and WhatCulture before, so now I’m thinking whether or not I should begin submitting writings to moviemezzanine. Would be really cool.

Once more, congratulations Marshall. Looking forward to more of this.

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