In Tahoe, Joe Carnahan was all energy. I couldn’t imagine the guy being tired. Even at 2 in the morning, facing a flood of bad cards, the guy was crackling. Talking to him on the phone from Los Angeles on the day of the Smokin’ Aces junket, I got to hear what an exhausted Carnahan sounds like – and he’s still got more energy than me on my best day.
The experience of working with Joe and Universal on the Smokin’ Joe Carnahan Q&As has been tremendous, and this interview was set up as a sort of capper on our long time together. Smokin’ Aces finally hits theaters this weekend, and it’s a guaranteed good time at the movies. And with any luck this isn’t the last CHUD has heard from Carnahan – we’re excited for his next films, especially White Jazz. Let’s see what the future holds.
You’re doing the Q&A with us, you did the screening at Butt-Numb-A-Thon… how is the internet changing the way you reach out to your audience?
Listen, I don’t have statistics in front of me, so obviously I’m talking from a complete layman’s perspective, but I feel like the net is such a vast, easily accessible, jam-packed source of information. And marketing is the mega-Godzilla in that mix. The speed in which you can do things and the immediacy with which you can communicate with a crowd – film buffs, fans, whatever – is amazing. Where I’m concerned, and I’m as big a geek as anybody that’s going to be checking in, I’m a total film nut, so for me to be able to put up on the blog posters that weren’t approved… shit man, if someone had done that for me on Star Wars or Raiders, I’d have lost my fucking mind. It’s such a cool thing to be able to do. Like, we put up the thing I did for Harry [Knowles], the Butt-Numb-A-Thon intro, and that’s something that would have been unthought of as a marketing device or a promotional tool even a few years ago. I think it’s so monumentally changed things that I don’t know if we’re fully aware of how huge reality-altering and life-changing the internet has been – in a lot of ways, but in this particular medium as well.
Ben Affleck got himself a Golden Globes nomination this year. Do you see Smokin’ Aces as a stop on the Affleck image rehabilitation tour?
I was always a huge Ben fan, so I feel like he was kind of targeted for whatever reason because of his love life, because of any number of things. For me, Ben never went anywhere, so I don’t see this as part of a march back to the top. You talk to him, and this is somebody I’ve become friends with, and he’s full of intelligence and wit. That never goes out of vogue. A guy like that, who is also supremely confident and talented, doesn’t just wither away – unless it’s by choice, unless he decides to take himself out of the equation. But Ben is also a different guy; he’s a husband and a father. He’s older. He’s making decisions as a man coming into his own with these elements in his life. He just wrapped a movie based on a Dennis Lehane book that he adapted and directed, and that’s fucking huge. I’m glad he’s getting some love, because he loves it. He’s fucking fantastic in Smokin’ Aces, and when I asked him to do what he ends up doing in the movie, he knew how it would make the audience react. He is a bright guy, and he is aware of his image and poke fun at himself. The guy has never lost his humility, and that will take you far in this business.
When I saw the movie it was with a small group. Now that more people have seen it, are you seeing one story or set of characters who is rising to the top as the favorite?
Everybody’s got their favorites. There’s ‘I like the boner kid,’ ‘I like the Tremor Brothers,’ ‘I like Jason Bateman,’ which is great, because you see individual tastes reflected in who they like most in the movie. It’s really interesting. In the hardcore online community there’s affection for the Tremor Brothers – which I expected. In the construction of those guys I knew there was going to be certain sects that are going to love these guys. But no, scenes that didn’t get mentioned are suddenly getting mentioned. It’s interesting to see it unfold with different audiences. But Bateman gets a lot of love, too.
This movie is packed. There’s so much going on, every scene that has something else happening, and this is a movie that invites second viewings. That makes me think of the DVD – what are we going to see on the DVD?
Oh brother, they’re doing so many cool bonus features. Right now the Tremor Brothers rampage in the hallway clocks in at about a minute – there’s a three minute version, this big whackadoodle of a scene. There are a lot of really great extended and deleted scenes. There’s this great feature on special effects squibs and one on magic tricks. And for the HD-DVD, Universal is doing this thing that they’ve never done, which is they are literally going to have a map of Tahoe and a complete three-dimensional image of the hotel, and at any point in the movie you’ll be able to click on a character in a separate pop up display, and it’ll tell you where they are in the hotel as the movie is running. They’re really stretching it and embracing all the aspects of the technology. I’m excited. And I get to prattle on endlessly on the commentary.
You mention the Tremor Brothers rampage is three times longer on the DVD. Did you have to cut it down for the MPAA?
You know what it was, brother? I felt like pacing-wise it was slowing the film down. I thought it was better to get in late and get out early. I loved it in its original form; it was much more operatic, it was much more like Wagner, it was heavily stylized. But in the movie I started getting antsy. But on the DVD, on the unrated version, it’s kind of great. If you bought the DVD the assumption is that you liked the movie and now you’re willing to see it in other configurations.
Is that tough for you? I know some directors have a hard time letting go of scenes they have to cut for pacing.
You gotta be able to kill your babies. You have to know enough to know that you can be completely in love with something, but its overall effect is that it’s hurting things. No matter how much fun it is, if it’s not pushing it along, it’s betraying a basic element. Nothing is too precious. And I say that, but I fought to keep in boner kid tooth and nail. You have to know what hill you want to die on, and in those instances it behooved the movie to cut it down, to trim it. Years ago you would have lost the sequence, you ate it, but now because of DVD you don’t ever feel like you’re making a gigantic sacrifice, because you know it’s going to show up in another form.