Interview: Tony Krantz, The Big Bang

Tony Krantz is the kind of movie maker that is the perfect expert of the field. He has worked in practically every capacity. Directing such films as “Sublime”, “Otis” and now “Big Bang” has made him a name to watch. But the truth is, you should already have been watching. Tony has been a producer for a long time, bringing us “24” and “ER”, among many other huge hits.

He was kind enough to speak with me in May 2011, just before the release of “Big Bang”, an action film with Antonio Banderas, Snoop Dogg, Sam Elliott and James VanDerBeek. I highly recommend you check it out. But before we got to talking about that, I had to ask Tony about one of my favorite shows of all time…

GS: I adore “Twin Peaks”…

TK: That’s fantastic.

GS: …how is the show different because of your involvement?

TK: Well, I was an agent for “Twin Peaks”, I didn’t produce the show. Coincidentally, sitting literally right outside my door is a birthday present that David Lynch gave me that is a poster he hand-drew that is a map of the town of Twin Peaks, that we used to sell the television show. It’s a charcoal and pencil drawing. The original title of “Twin Peaks”, little known fact, was “Northwest Passage”, but we couldn’t clear that title so we took the name of the town itself and that became the title of the show. If you’re ever over in Los Angeles and you want to come by and see that, it is literally a wonderful artifact in the history of the TV business.

GS: I would love to see that. You produced “Mulholland Drive” (2001). As producer, are you required to actually understand the mind of David Lynch?

TK: (laughs) What I understand about David, who I love and think is an American treasure, is that he is a man who lives in the world of the spirit of dreams. In many ways, “Mulholland Drive” is a dream, and dreams don’t always make sense to somebody looking at them from the outside. There are elements of that movie that I would argue don’t make exact linear sense, but it started as a television pilot that got rejected and we finished it as a movie. With David adding a closed ending, that was added after the fact from the original 2-hour movie. There’s a reason that it might not make exact linear sense, but as a producer I may not have the correct interpretation of it. It’s really the dream of David Lynch.

GS: I just want to say “Otis” really hit home for me. Of all the work you’ve done, with “Rest Stop “and “24” and all that, it’s “Otis” that I love.

TK: I appreciate that very much. Well, “Otis” is a black comedy. It was made as a direct-to-DVD movie when that business was sort of in dispute a little bit, given the economic collapse of the country. But it was a movie that I loved — two suburban parents who avenge the kidnapping of their daughter, they go to the guy’s house, and they mess him up. And they torture him, and they kill him, before they discover he’s the wrong guy. That’s the comedic twist of the movie. I think it sneaks up on you, and I’m glad you like it, it was really a lot of fun to make that one.

GS: In real life, how likely is it that Kiefer Sutherland could be an action hero?

TK: You know, who knows? Strange things happen to all sorts of people. Who would think that people — God bless them — in Joplin, Missouri would be action heroes? Some have sadly perished, but others have risen to the level of “hero” by virtue of saving somebody or doing something heroic. So, who knows? We have Navy SEALS, who are real-life action heroes, but they benefit from incredible training and discipline. Who knows what might happen in a moment of stress? I think what the Navy SEALS do only comes from discipline, training and courage.

GS: I appreciate that answer, it was very diplomatic. Moving to “The Big Bang”, color was clearly a big part of the film. How important were the colors for you personally?

TK: I think it’s a true statement that if you give the same script to 100 different directors, you’ll get 100 different movies.

GS: I’d agree.

TK: So this was my interpretation of the script. It was very important to me that the colors be visually arresting, because if you look at the classic noir movies of the 1950s, of which this is an homage, most of them were very stark, very bold, even though they were in black and white. “Noir” is, of course, the French word for “black”. So I wanted to make a film that was in the spirit of those movies, but for today’s audience the obvious choice is to make it in color instead of black and white. But if you’re going to make it in color, why not make it colorful and arresting visually in the same way those movies were? There were a lot of organizing principles I had when thinking about this movie in particular. Part of which is that this film deals with magical realism, it isn’t necessarily firmly planted on planet Earth. You’ve got a little person who flies ut a window and turns into a literal ball of fire. You’ve got light bending, you have a point of view from the front of a beam of light, allowing you to watch at the speed of light rather than in the instantaneous way that we normally see. So, we’re dealing in a world where these things are possible, so I thought we could make a movie that has kind of a surreal edge, a psychedelic feel to it. And it has a look that’s different than films being churned out by filmmakers in Hollywood today. Which doesn’t make it better, doesn’t make it worse — just different. And we loved it, and we went for it.

GS: A concern that comes up in many reviews is that physics doesn’t play a central role in the plot, but it does appear often. They claim you could have made the same film without the physics. Is that a fair criticism?

TK: I don’t think it is, and I’ll explain why. Physics is literally the plot. Not that it’s central to the plot, or related to the plot, but it IS the plot. And here’s what I will say — physics has something called the duality principle, and Einstein theorized this. It says that everything is a wave and a particle at the same time. You can be stationary and in movement. When you observe something — this is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle — the location is always moving, changing. And by the very act of observing that thing, you can never pinpoint its exact location. This is fundamental to physics — we’re good and evil, male and female, shades of all those things. We’re light and dark, we’re opposites. So if you say that all life is a collection of opposites, two sides to the same coin, the two stories of the film — the search for the girl and the search for the missing particle — are ultimately the same story. It’s a metaphor for life itself, for physics itself. So, the people who ask “what does physics have to do with it?” in my opinion, and in the opinion of all of us who made the movie, they actually didn’t get the larger metaphor encompassing the entire movie. Male characters are in love with female characters, but even those characters are not who they say they are. The definition of this movie is when Neil takes off the wig and says “I’m both.” He is opposites in one person. If the critics didn’t get that, it’s our fault as filmmakers for not explaining it clearly enough, but that’s what this movie is.

GS: Did Antonio Banderas get to sit in on casting?

TK: Yes, he did. He sat in on the casting of Lexi, and sat in on the casting decisions for many different choices. He is a wonderful, very generous actor. We didn’t want to make a decision he wasn’t comfortable with or didn’t agree.

GS: More specifically, did he help pick Autumn Reeser?

TK: He did, I did. It’s a pretty wild sex scene that they have. I gotta tell you, Autumn was unbelievably willing and flexible and generous as it relates to nudity and being willing to go for it. That’s a pretty wild scene where she’s explaining the basics of particle physics while they’re making love. When we were casting, everyone was fully clothed.

GS: Thank you, Tony, I appreciate you time.

TK: Oh, no problem. Good questions, thank you.

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