Interview of the week: Neil Jordan

By KAREN BUTLER  |  April 3, 2003 at 6:19 PM
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NEW YORK, April 3 (UPI) -- Over the past decade, Irish novelist-turned-filmmaker Neil Jordan achieved greatness making thoughtful, provocative dramas like "The Crying Game," "Michael Collins," "Interview with the Vampire" and "The End of the Affair." Now he turns to lighter fare with "The Good Thief," a re-make of the 1955 heist film, "Bob Le Flambeur."

Starring Nick Nolte, the film is about an aging gambler on a losing streak who attempts to rob a casino in the south of France. Unfortunately for him, someone's already tipped off the cops before he even makes a move.

Asked why he decided to make the film, Jordan admitted to United Press International that he almost didn't, since he generally loathes the idea of re-makes. A request from the film's producers intrigued him enough to make him want to give it a shot, however.

"I looked at the original film ... and then I began to write it," he recalled. "And so I came up with this ... structure where I would be doing a variation on the original theme, and then it became very interesting to me."

Jordan said he is a huge fan of the original, a film he described as a "lovely movie," adding: "Jean-Pierre Melville is a great filmmaker. That was one of the reasons that I was reluctant in the first place. Then I began to play on the idea of a re-make."

Reminded that he has had success re-making movies in the past, Jordan chuckles: "'The End of the Affair' was not a re-make."

"The first film was so terrible. I was doing a version of the book," he explained. "No, this was delightful to do. I've never done anything as light as this ... and dexterous. It was quite hard work. ... I loved it."

Although Jordan has a largely Irish company of players (Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn, etc.,) he often uses in his films, not a single one appears in "The Good Thief." The filmmaker said he chose several fresh new faces to head his cast because of the story's multicultural setting and characters, not because of any falling-out between himself and the lads.

"It was brilliant!" Jordan said of the experience. "It was quite extraordinary because I set the story in the Mediterranean, which is one of the great melting pots of the world right now. People are flooding into it from all over. ... I kind of wrote the characters around this multicultural community."

And there wasn't even a tiny part for Rea?

"There wasn't," Jordan insisted. "I didn't want somebody putting on a fake French accent."

One of the high points of the production for Jordan was working with Nolte, the talented, yet troubled star of "The Prince of Tides" and "Affliction," who made headlines last year when he was arrested for driving under the influence.

"He was quite wonderful," Jordan said. "He's one of the best actors in the United States. He's off the Hollywood system for all sorts of reasons, I suppose. He doesn't often get ... I mean he gets good parts, obviously, but not glamorous parts. What I liked here was that he played this shabby, utterly broken addicted man, kind of dragging himself back into a position where he's actually wearing a dress suit again."

So was Jordan surprised Nolte could pull it off?

"No. He's a great actor. He's amazing. He's one of those actors who's not afraid to use their own life. Not afraid to delve into their own experiences," he said.

"The Good Thief" opens Friday.

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