Q&A With Filmmaker Tony Kaye
How would you describe this film in a snapshot for someone who may not know
anything about it?
To me, DETACHMENT is a story about a man who is lost and in pain and tries to
hide from the real problems of his existence by losing himself in the morals of
the voices in his head, the real ones, the voices of god and the voices of the
devil. He is constantly running away from facing the truth. He is covered by a
huge black curtain that he cannot see. This curtain is his ego.
What about the material and screenplay made you want to direct this film?
I am interested in social issues. DETACHMENT stands against and explores
education. AMERICAN HISTORY X is a movie about the issue of racism. LAKE OF FIRE
deals with abortion. I like big moral and social issues. I have a fourth movie
called BLACK WATER TRANSIT which is still unfinished; however, that movie is
about environment, environment being everything. I want to make movies that do
more than entertain. DETACHMENT is about family also, the importance of family,
that family is everything. DETACHMENT is about being a parent; Henry Barthes
begins to find his way when he decides to embrace a future that involves the
caring of a young lost soul, Erica.
Elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film as it has a very distinctive
and stylized look.
I don't consider my work to be stylized, however most people do think my
moviemaking does have a distinct look. I try to just make things look real. I
try to make situations have spectacle and truth. I try to capture emotions that
are real. I hate acting. I hate things that don't seem authentic. People cry,
people get angry, people whisper, people love and people hate. I simply try to
put a microscope and a telescope and a radar logic scope to explore the mental
and moral qualities distinctive to the individuals that stand before the camera
The film features an ensemble cast comprised of both household names and
newcomers. How did you cast the film?
The casting of the movie began with the casting of Erica. The runaway teenage
hooker was the central pin for me in the story, she was the first brick in the
wall, although my own daughter Betty had always been in my mind [for 3 years
actually] to play Meredith. Betty is nothing like Meredith in real life, she is
very confident and very strong and ultra-determined to succeed in life, but she
has had a tough life, I walked out on my family when she was very young. I was
very selfish and filled with much ego, Betty was 5 years old and took it very
badly, Ruby her sister was 2 and did not really get affected by my actions.
Betty suffered much pain and I believe really brings that to the surface in her
performance as Meredith. I never really knew if I would be allowed to cast my
daughter as one of the leads because I would be accused of nepotism or such, and
I was quite prepared not cast her if I found somebody better [and would have
risked her not talking to me for years], but the truth is she absolutely smoked
the audition and she was way, way, way the best for the role, her acting was so
damn real, I cry almost every time see the movie through. However, as I said,
Erica was the cornerstone of the picture because she was a character who
connected with Henry, was a part of Henry. Meredith was not, Henry did not
connect with Meredith, in a way Henry did not really care about Meredith.
I also have this notion of types, contrasting types, dark against light,
controlled neurons against out of control neurons, black hair against brown hair
or blonde hair. Sami Gayle [who plays Erica] had brown hair which to me implies
an outward going nature, an out-of-control zone [or that's what I thought she
could easily play], so I looked for a Henry Barthes with black hair, an
in-control, a calm, contained person. I found that perfectly in Adrien Brody. So
I got him to run away from that. I got him to shout and scream and throw chairs
around, I got him to break down and come back to being calm in the end, to be
centered and in control, to becoming a parent. That was the arc of the
character, the story of DETACHMENT, Meredith took him to hell and back, that was
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