I just got off the phone with Joe Carnahan (it’s the Smokin’ Aces press day) and he is so excited about the questions that have been coming in. He’s having a blast, and he’s looking forward to answering more of your questions. Drop them to me at email@example.com with Smokin’ Joe Carnahan in the subject line and I will pass them along to him.
We also talked about more good stuff, including the Smokin’ Aces DVD (and the HD-DVD, which sounds like it’s going to be ambitious) and more about White Jazz – look for Joe’s take on making George Clooney into a scumbag as soon as I get a chance to transcribe it!
In the meantime, keep checking out Joe’s blog, www.smokinjoecarnahan.com, where he has been sharing some great pictures and behind the scenes stuff. And start getting psyched for Smokin’ Aces, which was a major hit at Butt-Numb-A-Thon this past weekend.
And now, questions, followed by answers!
Love your new site
Three quick questions
What was your main inspiration for Smokin’ Aces?
Jeremy Piven looks perfect (just by the trailer) for the Role of Buddy?
Was he your first choice?
Speaking of Casting. While writing a large cast film like Smokin’ ,who seems to have many stylish characters with their own quirks… Did you know who you would approach as actors?
Keep up the awesome work Joe.
That’s a name you walk through a door with man. You arrive late to whatever meeting you want with that name. ‘Tell ‘em fucking COBALT is here!’ Nice.
Okay, My biggest influence, as I said in another post, was really my running fascination with Frank Sinatra and his alleged mob connections. I always thought, ‘wow, what if I just decided one day that we wanted to parlay his status as a big Hollywood star, into the criminal world. What would happen?’ Smokin’ Aces kind kicks off from that.
Jeremy just happened to land in my lap at the perfect moment. There were a lot of names being bandied about but when you get to kind of the best actor for a particular role, your hard pressed to find someone better than Jeremy. He spent a lot of years being the go-to guy and pouring in 25 points off the bench and there’s a reason: He is a uniquely profound talent. I just can’t imagine anyone else playing Buddy.
And finally, no, I never know who I’m going after when I’m writing a character. That’s what keeps it constantly fresh for me. I like not knowing these things and discovering the different names and faces along the way. Nobody else could have played Darwin Tremor but Chris Pine. That is singularly his role. Early on, I had great difficulties with an actor who will remain nameless, who was originally going to play that part. I came to the conclusion that this guy’s heart wasn’t in it and so I made the decision to dismiss him.
Chris Pine comes along and I thank my lucky stars that the original actor fell out. It could’ve been disastrous otherwise.
On average, how many takes did you do for each setup? And how long did it take you to write the first draft of the script for ACES?
I don’t like to shoot tons of coverage. I think it’s a chickenshit way of shooting and ultimately, feels like you’re trying to write something with ten pencils, instead of one. Now on action stuff, you need a lot of coverage, so that’s different. I don’t follow the wide/two-shot/single/single kind of way of shooting either. I know what I need to make the scene work and don’t like to complicate a workload by adding additional angles that I know I will never use.
The first draft of the script took me about seven months, on and off. The last part of the script usually flies for me and the 3rd act typically takes about two weeks.
I recently saw Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane for the first time on Sundance the other day and I was wondering what your influences were for that film versus your influences for NARC which seemed like a very different style? Though both were gritty and there were some handheld shots one seemed to exist in the real world more then the other (which seemed to be in a more pulpy noir environment–which Smokin Aces appears to be as well).White Jazz is my favorite book by Ellroy and so I’m very excited to see the film!
Also, please try and convince Universal to invest in Blu Ray discs since that is what I’m about to put my money in…I’m positive I’ll buy Smokin’Aces but I’d prefer it on Blu Ray!
BGBO and NARC are radically different in about every way. One is more hyper real, whereas the other is very much grounded in muck: The harder, nastier facets of life. BGBO came out of my early fascination with David Mamet, in particular, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ and ‘American Buffalo’ I loved the slang and shit-talking his guys engaged in. BGBO was an extension of that, because it was so heavily expository, it looked like a play on the page. NARC was equally wordy, but I was trying to ground it and make it very prosaic and relatable. It was really a reflection on my life at that moment and what I was feeling and going through. I have every intention of making WHITE JAZZ in that same way.
I think we’ve romanticized Film Noir to the point where we’ve made it almost inaccessible. White Jazz should have all the stylistic and historic earmarks of noir, but it needs to be covered in a kind of contemporary dirt and grime. It needs to embrace its audience on that level and not turn into this kind of staid museum piece. This empty homage to the films of the ’40’s and ’50’s.
That’s no fun.
I heard that Ed Exley is a major character in White Jazz, I’ve never read the book so I don’t know if he is in fact in it. But if he is and if you do plan on using the character, Are you planning on asking Guy
Pearce to reprise his role? Can’t wait for Smokin Aces.
Jalyn, Seattle WA
I’ve had one wonderful meeting with Guy about that very thing. He was someone I really wanted and I hope we can make it work.
Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder is my favorite fictional detective, and you were once signed to do an adaptation of his novel "A Walk Among The Tombstones" with Harrison Ford. I know Ford dropped out due to creative differences, but what would have been your approach to this project and do you see yourself returning to the Scudder character in the future?
Bro, just to set the record straight. I dropped out due to creative differences, not the other way around. Publicists have this incredible penchant for spin, so just like the instance with MI3, where accounts may have got muddled and revisionist historians given free reign to retell these tales, let me say it again:
I stepped aside on that one. Not to sound like some asshole because that’s not my intention. I just want to be able to tell the truth, more often than not.
I loved Scott Frank’s script and I wish it could’ve happened. Who knows, maybe down the line we can revisit that. I share your enthusiasm for Scudder and know it could be a great franchise if placed in the proper hands and really developed right.