Miss Julie : Miss Jule Interview

You first thought of making Miss Julie (2000) quite a while ago, I think it was in 1993 when you were doing Mr. Jones (1993). What sort of problems did you encounter in adapting the play to screen, and why did it take so long to get it done?

"Well they're separate issues, working backwards, it took so long to get it done because it tended to go on the back burner. It was a period piece and therefore you don't have quite the sense of urgency doing a piece like that, you kind of think at one point I'm going to do Miss Julie and in the meanwhile I'll just keep thinking about the script and casting and things like that. Then finally it was the casting process that made it take so long because originally Juliette Binoche and Nic Cage were going to do it and then they both got very, very busy and rich and famous, and also just trying to co-ordinate the two of them together, and my own timing proved to be almost impossible. So finally in 1999, I thought, I've got to do this before the millennium and so I just said if they're not available I'm just going to move ahead and do the film anyway which is what happened. The first question, the biggest challenge at the centre of the play is an incredibly modern depiction of a male-female relationship, but the original text is stylistically quite dated in some ways, even though at the time it was regarded as being a very modern play. A lot of the language and a lot of the staging and a lot of the references to local political issues of that time, I felt, made it quite difficult to get to the centre of the play, so the biggest challenge was really editing and very delicately cutting away dialogue that was hindering us. "

I've read that you struggled to get money together, certainly from Britain for the film, why is that?

"There's a hell of a lot of money in Britain that is invested in film, but the British film industry is very much like an extension of the American film industry. We have the advantages and disadvantages of speaking the same language and therefore we have tended to fall into the generic American film production philosophy, rather than being an industry that has a bit more vibrancy and pride in it's own kind of specific colour, without having to be parochial or entirely regional, and still maintain an individuality. I've always found it really difficult to raise the money for these kind of films, there's plenty of other films I get offered with British money, a lot of British money but where I'm not so interested in the subject matter. Every time I find a slightly grittier film and try and raise the money here, I always end up at the back end of the production trying to do at least a T.V. deal or finally just some sort of distribution deal but the money is never a significant part of the budget, I've never tried to make a film with British money."

You chose to use Super 16mm handheld cameras on this film, why was that?

"I really like 16mm, I've made three or four films now on 16mm and blown them up to 35mm, so I'm technically very aware of what is and isn't possible with that medium and pretty much everything is possible on 35mm. The big advantage of 16mm is that the cameras are much, much lighter. The budget and speed of the production is dictated to by the weight and size of the camera. At the core of it you're making a film which is about cameras, and if they are bigger and heavier it's a slower production. I knew that I could raise a very small budget for Miss Julie, so based on that budget I worked out a 16 day shooting schedule, and the entire film was shot in 16 days. There's no way I could have shot it on 35mm with that kind of philosophy and that kind of crewing, so it was an easy choice."

Miss Julie seems to follow a sexual jealousy, obsession stuff that you do in your films, is that true? Is that something you're always interested in?

"I think most interesting stories contain quite a lot of passionate interaction between men, women, whatever, and I am drawn to those kind of stories and certainly Miss Julie, Springburg and Scandinavians, and Scandinavian cinema even, is very much in that vain."

It took a year for the film to be released in the UK

"I don't think I've never made a film that was released you know. Usually it's about the last territory in Europe to get the screening of one of my films, and always it's America first, which is kind of sad, and one is always trying to find a slot where you're competing with blockbusters. "

How do you think the film has been received so far?

"I think it's been received very, very well. Feedback has been slow on the American release, it's, as a sort of comedic observation, in the reviews in America, suddenly every critic, it seems, had ever directed Miss Julie or knew someone that had directed Miss Julie. Every film critic suddenly set out to prove that they were an expert on Strindburg and suddenly had these very knowledgeable things to say and also to compare the film to the 1953 Swedish film, which was a bit silly. "


Author : Steve Hill of Cinema.com