GILROY, TONY - DUPLICITY
No, said George (Clooney) I wonít be able to do it but you should get Clive
(Owen) Ė thatís how the casting went on Duplicity, as writer/director Tony
Gilroy explains in this Q & A.
How did you come to write and direct Duplicity?
Someone introduced me to Steven Soderbergh and Steven knew I did all these
espionage movies, so when we met and he said I want to do an espionage movie, a
love story. I said, ĎIím really kind of burned out on the whole espionage. The
only thing thatís cool thatís happening is that all the people that I know that
are in that world are all doing private and corporate.í He liked that idea and
that was the very beginning of it.
I didnít write Duplicity to direct it. It went through a lot of different
people and sat there for a little while. As I finished Michael Clayton, it was
sitting there very cold and I was very happy that no-one was taking a look at it
and it was lying in a shadow place. I was very happy to not say anything about
it and hope that it was still going be there for me to go into the pantry and
grab it to direct.
Did you always have Clive Owen and Julia Roberts in mind?
No. In the very beginning this was built for George Clooney. George actually
introduced me to Clive. He said, ĎI know you want me to do this but Iím not
going to do it. Iíve got to do some other things but you should get Clive.í He
introduced me to him at a party. I said, ĎAre you passing on this movie?í He
said, ĎJust go talk to him.í Thereís a very short list of guys who could play
this part. This part is very difficult to play.
Clive had been in Bourne [The Bourne Identity scripted by Gilroy] but Iíd
never met him. Iím a huge fan of his but I never knew he was so funny, loose,
comfortable, goofy. Itís like Ďwow why hasnít anybody put that on film?í It was
so perfect for the part. He read it and he became my partner and then we went to
While we were waiting to hear back from her, she became pregnant so she was
out. Clive and I went around trying to find other ways to put it together, but
we couldnít. We could never find an economic, studio-acceptable formula that
would work for everybody. Finally we gave up. He was going to go off and do
another movie and all of a sudden, the phone rings and Julia came back to us and
said ĎOK Iím ready now. I lost the weight, I want to come back and go to work.í
Michael Clayton triumphed at the Oscars and then subsequently on DVD. Did you
forsee that? And how do you think Duplicity will fare on DVD?
We were pretty surprised with Michael Clayton. We came out of the Venice Film
Festival and we were like whatís going to happen? We opened and everything that
happened afterwards was pretty cool, a surprising ride and it was a lot of fun.
If youíd asked me before what was going to happen, I would have never been able
to predict it.
How well do I think Duplicity will do? I donít know the answer to that. These
kind of movies are hard to make. Is there an audience for this movie? Weíll find
out. There used to be a lot of movies like this, a lot of bigger smarter movies.
Is that gone? I hope not.
The ending of the film is a big talking point. Are there any alternative
endings lined up for the DVD?
No. The ending was the big issue in the final cut conversations I had prior to
making the film. But what we are doing for the DVD is putting all the scenes
chronologically. Take Clive and Juliaís scenes and put them in a row and you can
follow them that way.
Is this something of a departure for you in that there is romance at the heart
of the film?
Nobody dies in Duplicity. No guns, no bombs. Itís a love movie so itís a
different kind of movie. Itís a hard tone to capture but it was always designed
to make smart candy, really smart, slick.
Do you think it will surprise people expecting Bourne 4?
The first couple of screenings that we had over the summer, where you just bring
in some friends to find out whatís working and whatís not, I had a couple of
people come out and go, Ďwow this took me half an hour to figure out. You were
trying to be fun, right?í Itís a love story, itís supposed to be fun, and itís
not supposed to be anything like any of those other movies.
Duplicity adopts a humorous tone towards money at a time when weíre in an
economic crisis and Wall Street scandals are prevalent. Is this good timing for
Itís very hard to time movies. All the Iraq movies - there must have been a
certain point where people were like ĎOh My God, what are we doing? Are we
driving off a cliff?í A lot of it has to do with luck. If Michael Clayton had
come out this year, that would have been really bad. Iím really happy that
Clayton existed in a pre-Obama America because of the politics of it, and the
anger in it, and a lot of stuff thatís underneath there subliminally has
hopefully been dissipated.
Maybe we might luck out and this will be the right idea for right now, but
itís really hard to design. Movies take so long to make and so much luck goes
into the moment.
Both Duplicity and Michael Clayton depict corporate intrigue. What draws you
to that subject?
I think itís a coincidence that those two pictures fall together like this. Iím
not sure I really want to get back in elevators again anytime soon! The
cinematographer and I went location scouting for both films and we spent so much
time in elevators. Maybe next film we wonít go in elevators. Nonetheless I like
what people do and Iím always intrigued with what people do. Corporate life does
provide a public and private arena for conflict. Thereís such a tension between
whatís private and whatís public in corporate life and thereís rituals to it.
Itís good dramatic fodder and a lot of people havenít paid attention to it in a
long time in a way that really made sense. It looks really good anamorphic. I
could stay home in New York too!
How did you become involved with writing the film version of State of Play?
Before Michael Clayton was released and after it was filmed, Iíd actually had a
car accident and broke my hip, and I couldnít go anywhere. They called me and
said do you want to work on State of Play and I told them about my hip. So Kevin
Macdonald [the director] came to New York and came to my house every day so I
was actually able to do it at the house. We worked really hard for eight weeks,
it was very intense, and we were under a lot of pressure. Youíve got to really
deliver, no messing around.
How did you research Duplicity?
This is actually a very easy film to research because a lot of people that I
knew as sources from other movies were all going private. Of all the spies I
knew, and all the people that were in the intelligence community, almost every
single one of them had gone private over that period of time. Weíd done Proof of
Life and got involved in the whole kidnapping and ransom business, control risk,
Kroll and all these companies. Itís a huge business worth billions and billions
of dollars so it was very easy to research. Thereís nothing in the movie that
isnít true. There isnít anything in there that hasnít happened in some
Did Duplicity turn out exactly how you had envisioned it when you wrote the
Itís a big mistake to try and say I have the script and the movie has to be that
way. Thatís a buzzkill and anti-creative. I wouldnít want it to look exactly
like it does in the script. You want it to change, you want it to become alive,
you want it to grow as you go. The tone for this is tricky and I didnít realise
just how difficult that would be.
How hard has it been to switch from writing to directing?
Even the first scripts I ever wrote, I wrote them as directors. I made them as a
real movie to me in my head. Bad screenwriting is someone just typing stuff but
if youíre writing well, youíre making a movie and it reads like a movie. Itís
frustrating when someone comes in and messes it up or takes it someplace that
you just go, ĎOh My God, thatís just a terrible, terrible choiceĒ. Thatís very
The more experience you get, you write less and less and after you direct, you
write less, less dialogue, let the camera do more.
Published July 30, 2009
Email this article