[Can you imagine having to open the same day as ‘Titanic’?!?! -‘Guy’ is the Vault’s idea of the ‘anti-Titanic’]
7 Questions with Michael Lindsey-Hogg, Director, and Renee Missel, Producer of “Guy”
by Stephen Garrett
Among the holiday delights in theaters this December is the decidedly non-festive ‘Guy’, a riveting portrait of man named Guy (Vincent D’Onofrio) followed relentlessly by a woman documentarian (Hope Davis) who refuses to tell him why he’s being filmed, or even reveal her own name, for the sake of objectivity and distance. As time passes, the woman’s invasive persistence pays off, and she is allowed to film all of Guy’s life — everything from a quick bathroom visit to sex with his girlfriend. Despite himself, Guy falls deeply in love with the documentarian, and constantly battles her rebuffs and insistence on not getting involved. Kirby Dick’s screenplay is the foundation for easily the most original movie this year, and is also a wonderfully stimulating meditation on the nature of film, the subjective power of the camera, and the ways in which people reveal and protect their emotions. “Guy” opens in Los Angeles on Dec. 17 .
indieWIRE: What was the greatest challenge for you, Renee, in producing ‘Guy’, especially coming off of a studio film like ‘Nell’?
Renee Missel: The challenge was not getting too depressed at how little money you have, because I wasn’t used to that. And suddenly people talked to you as if you’re doing porno. All these agents who respected me tremendously the moment I was doing “Guy”, suddenly the way they dealt with me changed thoroughly. They were worried — they were worried that the sex scene would be too explicit, that it was going to be in bad taste.
iW: If anything, the film is a model of restraint — and the sex scene’s not gratuitous in the film: there’s a specific psychological and emotional function it serves.
Missel: Yes, it could have gone way out there with that scene, and we didn’t.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Because the scene is shot really almost clinically or objectively, people aren’t used to that. They’re used to what they know is a created sex scene, whereas this seems to be something which actually happens. Interestingly, a lot of women say that they find it a very sexy scene. One of the interesting things in that scene as well are the layers of betrayal — that he’s making love to one person, but yet his orgasm and the experience is for the person that’s watching him. Betraying his physical lover in order to give to his non-physical lover.
iW: Michael, what got you interested in the script?
Lindsay-Hogg: What I liked about the script was all the issues Kirby raised in the script, which are a kind of love story, a story about obsession, a story about people getting trapped in a web of their own making and also all the issues of privacy, how we lend ourselves to being available to other people, how we hide from other people, how we wish to control relationships. I thought there was a really interesting number of tasty ingredients in this. What’s interesting is that Vincent’s character doesn’t want to reveal himself right away, and because it’s a woman he’s dealing with and because she’s so persistent, he gradually lets his guard down. And once his guard is down she kind of stalks him with her presence and he gets caught. All the layers in there are very interesting.
iW: Was part of the appeal of the project the challenge of a two-character piece where the camera constantly stays on one person while the other person is always offscreen?
Lindsay-Hogg: I think directors, like athletes, like putting themselves to the test: can I run the distance quicker than someone else has run it; and not just can I do it well, but can I do it differently or better? That was a very interesting thing: how to tell a story while never for all intents and purposes seeing one of the characters. And how do you do that in a way that doesn’t make it boring — yeah, sure, that was a very exciting thing to do because I’d never done that before.
iW: How did Hope Davis get involved?
Missel: In the early stages, she was one of the first people that we talked to. We had her in mind for the girlfriend for a while rather than for the heroine. It’s interesting — you read a script like this and you think, “my God, the voice is crucial — it has to be the voice of a siren.” So we first cast Robin Tunney from ‘Niagara, Niagara’ because her voice is so sensual; but then we found that that didn’t work, that it was taking the energy out of the character, that instead of driving the piece the piece was lying flat because Vincent is also doing a passive thing — Vincent is being assaulted, he’s the one being raped. And Robin’s a wonderful actress, but that sultry, very sexy voice — it wasn’t driving enough, whereas Hope Davis has an amazing tension — she doesn’t have a great voice, but there’s tension in her voice and you sense her insanity. And you sense that she’s right on the edge.
iW: Were there certain scenes from earlier drafts that either technically or creatively were altered drastically or couldn’t be done?
Missel: Certain things that were always in question were the hotel room — does he really rape her or does he stop himself. And Kirby really wanted him to rape her and I really did not want that. I felt it was pivotal that he go right to the edge and then pull himself back — because, after all, he is the hero. And many friends of Kirby Dick’s said that the woman deserved to be raped and I said, “yes, maybe she does. But that doesn’t mean that he has to be the one doing it.”
iW: Gramercy’s ad campaign plays up the film as a romance, which surprised me.
Missel: They’re going romantic, yeah, I know. And the foreign campaign is much harder and edgier. A little more Generation X. But they’re selling it here as a love story, which it is — a love story, but it’s a very peculiar love story that’s very disturbed and it doesn’t let you know there’s a darkness to this. And there are so many movies nowadays — I mean, when they told me originally that they were going to open on the same day as ‘Titanic’, I said, “please let us open on a Wednesday so we can get some reviews, because otherwise we’re dead.” And thank God they gave in on that one. And I’ve found that it’s a hard film for people to accept and take — and they get very angry, especially men over forty.
Lindsay-Hogg: I think it’s because it’s untraditional in its form and it disquiets people. In this picture it very much depends on: a) how you react to the form, and b) if you like Vincent and you find yourself sucked into his relationship. Because of the untraditional set-up the movie has, some people turn off early on to the experience. Other times people find the candor of the thing disquieting. It’s all taste.