December 21, 2010

“THE TOURIST” Director Talks About Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp

In 2007, German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film for “The Lives of Others.” The searing portrait of a Stasi agent set against the political intrigue and subsequent collapse of the East German state, the film marked both his debut as a director and one of the most acclaimed releases of the decade.

In January 2011, von Donnersmarck returns with his long-awaited follow up and first Hollywood film, “The Tourist,” which follows the exploits of Johnny Depp’s American innocent abroad in Europe, Frank Tupelo - a man who gets more intrigue than he bargains for when he falls for Angelina Jolie’s enigmatic screen siren, Elise.

The director talks about the romantic thriller in the following interview:

Q: How would you describe “The Tourist”?

FHD: The film is many things at the same time. It’s a suspense thriller. And it’s hopefully as intriguing and fun as are Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in everyday life.

Q: How did the film come about for you?

FHD: I had just finished a script for a dark international thriller that I’d been writing for a year and a half, when Angelina called me and said, “Look, there’s this project that I’m thinking about and I’d really think about it if you’d consider doing it.” I looked at it. It definitely had the potential to be a sexy, fun, sweeping movie. As a fan of Angelina’s, I also felt that she was one of those rare women who had the explosive power of a Rita Hayworth or a Grace Kelly, but that she’s never really had a part where she could show it all - that extremely feminine, elegant side. She’s played tough action figures in “Salt” and “Lara Croft.” And she’s played challenging drama like “Changeling” and “A Mighty Heart.” But she’s never had a part where she was just allowed to be as glorious as she is... I guess I saw a chance to really present her in that way. And to present audiences with Angelina the way I’ve always thought of her.

Q: How did you proceed?

FHD: Well, we still needed an ideal costar… It’s tough to find a costar for Angelina, because she has so much going for her, and I didn’t want Frank’s character to look to weak by comparison. We needed someone who was a great actor, but who was also charming, funny, sexy and smart. When we put all that together, we realized we needed Johnny Depp. Our producer Graham King arranged a meeting between Johnny and me in Johnny’s office, we had a great conversation and he loved the idea of doing this with us.

Q: What was it like making your first Hollywood film?

FHD: With the crew and those fantastic actors, it was a real joy. They were so game to try out something new and so it was just a fantastic exchange, a really great experience.

Q: You decided to actually film in Venice, a tricky proposition I would imagine for a film of this scale, or indeed any scale…

FHD: It’s rare for a movie to shoot entirely in Venice – the normal way to do it would be 3 weeks in Venice for the exteriors and all the rest shot in studio. But since Johnny had a hard out date and had to leave for Pirates of the Caribbean, we wouldn’t have had time to build the Venice interiors in a studio. So for practical reasons, we had to do the unheard of thing…we had to shoot the entire picture in Venice, for which I’m thankful. It seemed an almost crazy thing for a producer and a studio to allow. But we had a real reason to do it… I hope that you’ll be able to feel, when you see the film, that it has that special quality, that Venice itself is also a character in the movie.

Q: Was it a conscious decision to follow up “The Lives of Others” with something so different?

FHD: Yes, it certainly was. I had actually just finished writing a screenplay which was, again, a kind of international dark, political thriller, maybe a little bit in the vein of “The Lives of Others.” And then just as I was about to start setting it up, “The Tourist” came along. I thought to myself, if I make this dark film now, I’m going to be that guy, forever. I’ll be the guy who does dark political thrillers. And I do want to explore other things too. Maybe it will be great to do the exact opposite and go for something very colorful, elegant and beautiful.

Q: How has your life changed since winning an Oscar?

FHD: An opportunity like The Tourist would probably have never come along without the Oscar. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is for the viewer to decide.

(Opening soon across the Philippines, “The Tourist” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Visit for trailers, exclusive content and free downloads. Like us at and join our fan contests.)

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