A Master Manipulator
What drives BLUE CAPRICE is not a simple accounting of vicious, senseless killings, but the study of the deadly chemistry between the two killers, John and Lee. Let there be no doubt it, Tequan Richmond states: "Lee is insane. How he got there is that his mother left it up to Lee to raise himself. Lee has nobody. He thinks the reason his mother left him is that he wasn't able to make her happy. So he's in desperate need of finding somebody to please."
"It's a primal need," Moors states. "It's a basic need, especially for a boy, to be fathered, to get that kind of guidance. And that's a part of the story that is just heartbreaking, that Lee has never had that." Once he finds it, in John, he'll do anything to keep it. "That need is so big in him, he'll do anything -- even embrace this 'career' -- thinking it will fix it so he'll be able to keep his dad."
All of the mentoring and fathering John gives Lee is no different than that of any father -- it's just warped. "It could easily have ended up that, after all this, they take a fishing trip together. But they don't -- they go off killing. It's the same, in a lot of strange ways, except the stakes are much higher."
The same goes for John's insatiable need to lead someone. "That's also a very primal need," Moors says. "A little family cell is a microcosm of the entire world. And it satisfies your desire to be admired, to be 'in charge, and to be a hero to your kid. People are drawn to the natural position parenthood puts you in -- you're a god to your children. It's an itch that gets scratched, in a way."
But John is anything but modest. "Being a parent requires you to provide for your family and to be responsible. John has none of that. He was like a child himself. His whole world collapsed when he lost his family, and he had nobody to talk to or mold. He was like a prophet in need of an audience -- and if you don't have somebody to listen to you, then you don't exist."
John and Lee aren't too different in some ways -- almost two sides of the same coin. "John was an orphan, too," says Washington. "He understood that kind of loneliness that Lee has, of being a complete loner. It's the very thing that caused him to gravitate to Lee -- and the very thing he used against him," to manipulate him into doing his bidding.
But what Washington truly portrays so well in the film is John's complete sense of outrage and betrayal. "When I stepped into his world, I had to ask myself, 'What would happen to you if you felt you had been completely betrayed?' John feels like he's been betrayed by everyone and everything. He trained himself in military tactics, but when it came down to it, he wasn't allowed to become a Special Forces candidate. That was the thing that set him off. Something broke. Then he was, like, 'Now I'm gonna show the world.' He was going to have his own jihad."
That said, the source of his pain only goes so far, says Moors. "His anger has very little to do with America or the military or religion, or race. This is somebody that just cannot accept the cards life dealt to him. And nothing can alleviate the pain or anger he feels -- and he doesn't know it."
The flip side of that is John's unfortunately childish response to life. "He's like a five year old. He comes to the house of his best friend, finds his wife, and has no qualms about having sex with her. He's completely morally broken. He doesn't understand the difference between desire and knowing how to behave."
John is the classic big-headed loser who portrays himself as a winner -- an egomanic with an inferiority complex. "That's something Alexandre was very clear about, that John was the ultimate loser," says Washington. "He wasn't good at anything. Probably had failed at every single thing in his entire life. But even losers have egos. Even losers think they're the greatest at everything, even though they are horribly inept."
The manipulative mastermind sees himself as a great military leader, not the guy from the motor pool, as Ray reveals to Lee. Even as he finds himself tossed out on the street by his girlfriend, he declares to Lee -- while pointing to a filthy street next to a bridge abutment -- "I gave you all this!"
"That was another sad, tragic day," Washington recalls of shooting the scene. "I was, like, 'Ohh, my fricking God. You can't be serious. You have nothing, dude! This is below rock bottom. Are you serious? You just got thrown out!' I was talking out loud to my character, John -- Tequan was going, 'Man, you're talking to yourself again.' I had to figure out how this guy could become a king in his own mind. And to make that work onscreen."
Portraying someone who is deluded isn't as simple as it seems. "That's the hardest part, as an actor -- how do you play delusion? You can't act delusion. If you do, you're playing a caricature of a psychopath. You have to listen to the director, trust the writing, and trust your other actors, to pull you through. I'm sure I did a lot of takes, but we got it right."
As Lee begins to buy into his "dad's" way of thinking, he slowly begins to harden. "He reads that sniper manual, and it just fits the bill, as far as pleasing John goes," explains Richmond. "His father wants him to be a sniper? Then he'll be the best sniper he can be."
The script didn't originally call for Lee to read it aloud, Moors reveals. "It just said, 'Lee reads a military manual on the porch.' It was interesting, when our prop master found that book, I was reading it -- it described our entire movie, how he was to behave and not be susceptible to any emotion. It fit perfectly -- it became his bible, his guide to how to be a person -- except it was how to be a sniper person."
With each killing, Lee becomes less and less of the sad young lad he was in Antigua. "With each killing, he peels another off another layer of his humanity," Moors explains. Adds Richmond, "Each time he does something that John responds to -- like handling an arms dealer in an authoritative way, as he does in one scene -- he continues."
By the end, when Lee declares that "This is no longer about them," as John grumbles about his missing family, he thinks to himself fondly, "I've created a monster." "When I first read that line in the script, I didn't know why I would say that," Washington notes. "But by the time we got there, I knew why. That's the tragedy of this story -- one human being turned another into a monster."
But was it out love, as Lee hopes, or was it John using his best manipulative skills to create that monster in order to fill a need an insatiable need? "That's up to the audience to figure out," Washington says. "When I tied him to that tree, on that cold night, I knew I only had one or two takes in me. I'm walking away through the woods, and Tequan is calling John's name, I just started to cry. Who could do this to a child? And why?? He's trying to mature a child soldier by breaking him down psychologically. But what's really driving his is anybody's guess."
Moors agrees. "I can't tell you what's going on John's mind -- I have no clue. We don't exactly understand how they go from point A to point B -- we don't have all the pieces of the puzzle, and no one ever will. I don't know how to become a murderer. The film isn't explicit about that. It's up to each member of the audience to figure that out for themselves."
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