Interview with Oren Moverman
Director of ďRampartĒ
Ron Salfen, ďThe Presbyterian OutlookĒ
January 10, 2012
Presbyterian Outlook: First, let me say that I really thought this was a high-impact film. Where did you get the idea for him to be married to two sisters? Was that from the Bible, perchance?
Oren Moverman: It is very biblical, but it was (co-writer) James Ellroyís idea. It was something that came out of his unique mind, and brings up a lot of interesting dynamics.
PO : Yes, including the inevitability that they would gang up on him, and heíd be outnumbered. But yeah, Jacob and Leah and Rachel and the whole thing, right?
OM : Right (chuckles).
PO : Although we donít have maids thrown in, but we do have other people involved. I didnít get the sense that he was trying to find intimacy thereÖ
OM : I agree. Heís just some kind of animal, and someone who has been worn down morally and ethically and spiritually; someone who has no core, really, except a set of false beliefs. And the idea that his bad behavior toward bad people makes him good. Itís a very questionable ethos, but itís basically his way of operating in the world. And so I think his desire to be with women, his desire to be loved, is much more of the physical and superficial nature. Itís his idea of having a core, which of course is completely wrong-headed.
PO : Yeah. I was interested in the relationship with his daughters. Was that sort of the last vestige of the milk of human kindness, or did it just wind up being another casualty on the battlefield of his relationships?
OM : I think itís ultimately the last casualty; itís when he loses everything. Heíd managed, in his life, to separate his personal world from his job, thinking wrongly that theyíll never mix, and never affect each other, forgetting that heís the one who connects those two worlds, and so he brings himself into each of those worlds. Itís a certain kind of punishment, if you will. Itís the last chance he has at redemption, really, and he screws it up. He doesnít know how to build a bridge to the future, or toward change. His inability to adapt means they are unable to include him in their lives, and thatís a terrible ultimate punishment, as far as Iím concerned.
PO : A self-respecting critic is not supposed to gush, but I gotta ask you: how did you coax all those great secondary performances out of those people? And Iím talking about Robin Wright and Ben Foster and Sigourney Weaver and Ned Beatty and Ice Cube----lots of significantly impactful minor characters.
OM : I wish I could take credit for it. Donít tell anyone, but I figured out the secret formula; get great, intelligent, talented actors to be in your movie, and you get great results.
PO : (laughs) Yeah, itís all about the people you have around you, right?
OM : Exactly. We all lift each other.
PO : I thought that was an outstanding aspect of the film. In a way Woody Harrelson was---I donít want to say one-dimensional----but itís such a laser beam, that it was refreshing to see some variety expressed in the relationships with the secondary characters.
OM : Yeah, in many ways the secondary characters are comprised of elements of him---theyíre almost a commentary on him. But youíre right, heís a character who refuses to change, so if you just had him in the movie, it would be very monotonous. But these other characters add a lot of color and flavor and meaning to his interactions.
PO : Is Dave Brown based on a real character?
OM : No.
PO: But was there some sort of scandal---Iím sorry, Iím not part of the L.A. culture, but was there a scandal involved with the police there?
OM: Yeah, Iím not from L.A. either, so I had to learn about it, also, but in the 1990ís the LAPD had to be taken over by the federal government because it was so corrupt: cops went to jail, and changes had to be made. The time in the movie represents that.
PO : ďRampartĒ actually refers to a particular station, right?
OM: Yes, a station just outside of downtown L.A. , mostly Hispanic.
PO : That incident with the rookie cop and the French fries---it was an indication that Woodyís character just couldnít let anything go, right?
OM : Thatís exactly it; he couldnít. But itís also an introduction to different sides of his personality: the tough guy, the cynic, the torturer, who hates to see people wasting food. Heís kind of toying with her, kind of humiliating her, and yet, his heart breaks for her when she says she never knew her father. That gets to him, because of his own tenuous relationship with his daughter.
PO : That line about not paying taxes because he canít owe on something heís not committed to---
OM : Yeah, itís about the cash from strong-arm confiscation of illegal poker games, and other strong-arm kinds of operations.
PO : Well, and thatís ultimately what got him in trouble----the investigator just wouldnít let that go.
OM : Yeah, corruption stops when the honest people wonít put up with it.
PO : This ragged, muddled relationship with the exes---you have to continue to relate with them because of the kids, but thereís this weird kind of animosity/affection/shared history/anger---thrown together in one volatile mix.
OM : I agree with you---very loaded relationships which point toward a broken quality in the future. And the twist here is that the exes relationship with each other is closer than either of their relationships with him.
PO : How does it affect your work as Director to also be the co-writer?
OM : Not only am I close to the material, it allows me to change things as I go: to treat the script as a living, breathing thing, as opposed to something thatís fixed, and just has to be executed. It was fun to sculpt the movie along with the actors.
PO : Would you be willing to direct something you didnít write?
OM : Yes, I would be very open to that.
PO : What have I failed to ask you about that you really want to tell me?
OM : Mmm. Thatís probably the best question Iíve ever heard. And thatís how I would respond, by saying thatís the best question Iíve ever heard.
PO : (laughs) Thanks. Well, I appreciate you as a writer and a director, and I hope that you will be part of some projects in the future that excite you and get your creative juices flowing like they are here.
OM : Thank you. Thatís very kind of you. Thank you.