Cary Fukunaga: exclusive interview with the new James Bond director

He is replacing Danny Boyle, but the Californian may not be the safest pair of hands hes no stranger to walking from projects and his latest series, Maniac, is a mind-bending trip into psychotropic drugs

Danny Boyle

Have I done psychotropic drugs? Cary Fukunaga considers the question and laughs. Yeah. Just an aesthetic amount, which is basically just enjoying yourself. He hasnt had the full, guided experience, he says, where your mind is turned inside out. But I wouldnt mind. Im curious about it.

This curiosity is evident in the 41-year-old directors new TV show, Maniac, which centres on pharmaceutical drug trials and takes viewers inside the minds of their human guinea pigs and off into fantastical realities. Fukunaga excels at such world building, from his gothic-tinged Jane Eyre to child soldier drama Beasts of No Nation, not to mention the debut season of the noir horror True Detective.

No doubt these skills are what helped seal the deal when the producers of James Bond signed up the director after Danny Boyle dropped out at the last minute. The announcement came just days after our interview. So what clues can Maniac, as well as Fukunagas other work, give us as to what we can expect of 007s 25th outing?

Human guinea pigs Emma Stone and Jonah Hill in Maniac. Photograph: Netflix

Well, there will almost certainly be some intriguing gadgets. The retro future of Maniac boasts chess-playing android koalas, tiny sanitation robots and a depressed computer. Technically, the show is a remake of the 2014 Norwegian series of the same name, which Fukunaga hasnt seen. Not out of any disregard, he says. He just liked the conceit of a show with delusions.

The original Maniac concerned a mental institution. But in early talks with Emma Stone, who stars in the new version, launching this week on Netflix, the pair decided to stay away from anything that could be seen as making fun of mental illness, instead anchoring it on drug trials that aim to eradicate unnecessary human pain. Stone plays Annie opposite Jonah Hills Owen damaged souls who, once strapped in, become other characters in other worlds, whether they like it or not.

Amid all the surrealism, Maniac is littered with moments of real trauma. The first trial sees the guinea pigs taking a pill that makes them relive the most devastating moment of their lives. Its not unlike peoples experiences with ayahuasca, which supposedly purges users of their demons (as well as the contents of their stomachs). Fukunaga says such substances didnt influence the show at script stage but, before shooting began, he read an article about the therapeutic use of psilocybin and LSD studies. He was fascinated.

All of these things that open up gateways in the mind there must be something there. The mind is so complicated, we dont understand it at all yet, he says, citing studies exploring how the trauma of previous generations can affect us. Say your grandmother was in the Holocaust. That gets imprinted on the DNA. The maze to understanding how we carry all these things I think its amazing.

The names Rochester, Mr Rochester Michael Fassbender and Imogen Poots in Fukunagas 2011 Jane Eyre. Photograph: Allstar/BBC Films

Maniac allowed Fukunaga to work through his own issues, too. Almost all of the concepts on screen, as well as dialogue, come from conversations he had with co-writer Patrick Somerville. Its Patrick and I wrestling with our internal demons, he says. Were almost working out our own understanding of ourselves. So their conversations about therapy for a show about therapy were genuinely therapeutic? In terms of me being fixed now, no. But it was definitely illuminating.

Fukunaga has always looked for answers in his work, and one cant help wondering if the Bond template can accommodate such yearning. Will he be able to avoid friction with the famously controlling 007 producers, who have allowed directors little leeway in stamping their individuality on the franchise, as Boyle appears to have found to his cost? We shall have to wait to find out. Like Boyle, Fukunaga has been known to walk from projects, but filming begins in March next year with a release planned for February 2020, assuming all goes smoothly.

Fukunaga was raised in California, the son of a Japanese-American father born in a second world war Japanese internment camp and a Swedish-American mother. They divorced when he was four, and his father went on to marry an Argentine woman, while his mother married a Mexican-American. From that point on, he straddled their worlds, moving about, spending periods in Mexico, absorbing cultures. As a teenager in Berkeley, he wished he was black instead of the weird half-Asian kid, which didnt seem like something to grab on to. I discovered Roots and Malcolm X. It was a golden age of hip-hop.

Big showdown Spectre, the 24th Bond film; the franchises strict format may cause friction for Fukunaga. Photograph: Allstar/United Artists

In Maniac, Annie and Owen become various characters in other times and places via pills that send them to alternate realities in their minds. Does that come from his own early searches for self? Its more about the different people we carry inside of us. I dont think there was a black man inside of me, he says with a laugh. I was trying to find an identity, more than anything. Trying to figure out what my identity was.

Due to his eclectic roots and upbringing, he didnt know where he belonged, and felt outside of himself. Writing stories helped, and his early films immigration drama Sin Nombre then Jane Eyre were starting to scratch the surface of identity. And eventually you start looking deeper.

The first scripts of True Detective, about two cops on the trail of a serial killer in Louisiana, had already been written when Fukunaga was hired, but he brought his own aesthetic most famously episode fours six-minute tracking shot, which earned him an Emmy for outstanding directing. Not that he got caught up in the shows success: by that point, he had isolated himself in a house with no internet access, writing Beasts of No Nation, which hed been planning for 15 years, as well as his adaptation of Stephen Kings psychological clown-horror novel It.

Fukunaga had been hired to work on the screenplay for It in 2012. As with the later Maniac, Fukunaga and co-writer Chase Palmer put a lot of their own childhoods into the screenplay, updating the novels setting from the 1950s to the 1980s. But in 2015 he jumped ship. The writing was on the wall that it was going to be a difficult collaboration. What did the writing say? There were so many messages on that wall, he says. It was a neon sign by the end. A non-disclosure prevents him from elaborating, but he did recently suggest that studio executives feared they couldnt control him. Why did he think that? You could just tell by the way they were acting.

Hostile waters Sin Nombre, Fukunagas 2009 film about crossing the US border. Photograph: Allstar/Focus Features

It troubles him. Youre still a human being, you still have feelings, he says. Especially if youre a creative person. Youre sensitive. You get labelled in ways that arent you, and thats frustrating. More frustration followed, when he spent a year and a half adapting Caleb Carrs Victorian-set serial-killer novel The Alienist for television, only to leave that after 18 months because of budgeting and scheduling problems. The final product, he says, was very different to what he had been developing.

Clearly, Fukunaga doesnt settle for anything less than exactly what he wants. It is sometimes difficult for him to articulate what hes looking for, he says, but its there a feeling or a vision. He talks about a scene in Beasts of No Nation in which he wanted the family to come out of a church on a grassy hill, with a specific idea in his head of what that church and hill looked like. He hunted for it. I had a motorcycle and I would go out by myself on the weekends and just look around. Youre like a bloodhound, theres a whiff: Just over that ridge, hopefully theres that thing I have in my mind. And the spooky thing is, sometimes you find it. We found that church. It existed.

All of this brings to mind Stanley Kubrick, also famously allergic to cutting corners. Its no surprise then that Fukunaga is an enormous fan. After True Detective aired, he was hired to adapt and direct Kubricks unmade Napoleon film as a Steven Spielberg-produced mini-series for HBO, under the guidance of Kubricks long-time executive producer Jan Harlan. We want to carry the torch in a way that embodies the spirit of what he was trying to achieve, says Fukunaga, visibly excited. In a couple of weeks he will head to the library in Kubricks St Albans home to continue work with Harlan.

Ive been there once before, he says. You can become jaded, working in this industry for so long, but there are moments like, Holy fuck. Im on holy, holy ground. Well, quite: Kubrick is buried there in the garden. He nods. Jan brought me to his grave and introduced me to him, he says, awed. That was a momentous occasion. No need for the psychotropics.

Maniac is on Netflix from 21 September.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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