Examiner Dorri Olds sat down with director Anton Corbijn (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) in New York City on Tues., July 22, 2014 to discuss his latest film, “A Most Wanted Man,” and what it was like working with the much-missed star, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Watching the film gives an eerie sensation that Hoffman has come back to visit. It’s as if he is saying, “See, I wasn’t finished yet.” His performance is yet another Academy Award-worthy turn, this time playing intelligence operative Gunther Bachmann, an English-speaking German working in Hamburg with an anti-terrorism unit. The spy thriller was adapted as a screenplay by Andrew Bovell (“Edge of Darkness”) from the novel by John le Carré.
Hoffman appears bloated and it’s hard to see where the line between Hoffman and Gunther lies. Gunther is a sad, lonely, overweight, middle-aged man who carries a whiskey flask and chain-smokes.It’s painful to watch, knowing that Hoffman, too, destroyed himself with vices.
The intensity and intrigue of the movie, plus the stellar cast, quickly absorbs the viewer and does what the best movies can — takes you on an adventure into the lives inside a world far different than your own.
As director Corbijn discussed his film, it was simple to see he is just as obsessed with filmmaking as Hoffman was. Corbijn said, “I brought Philip and Rachel voice coaches because I wanted them to sound like Germans who speak English. I spent months and months on that to get it just right.”
“In the world after 9/11,” Corbijn said, “if a person is one percent bad, he is considered 100 percent bad. I wanted you to see that in the film. Unfortunately, that is the way of the world now. So, this is art imitating life. The Boston bombing, with the guys from Chechnya, the same country where Issa is from, I think most Americans never heard of that country until that bombing.”
The story revolves around Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a half-Chechen, half-Russian, brutally tortured 26-year-old man who is spotted in Hamburg’s Islamic community. He has been classified by Interpol as an escaped militant jihadist who has come to Hamburg to claim his father’s ill-gotten fortune.
The cast of “A Most Wanted Man” includes Willem Dafoe as Tommy Brue, a banker with the key to Issa’s father’s money; Rachel McAdams as human rights lawyer Annabel Richter; and Robin Wright as Martha Sullivan, a high-ranking CIA spy that Bachmann doesn’t trust.
Corbijn spoke of scenes he favored, “I really liked the holding cell. I loved how Philip just sits there smoking. I just held the camera on Philip that whole length of time where he is sitting with Rachel [McAdams]. I liked that a lot. I also liked Philip on the ferry with all of the seagulls and only did one take of it without any cutting.”
Corbijn would speak only briefly about Hoffman’s personal life, “Was he [Hoffman] trying to tell me something from behind the scenes? That’s hard to tell. I feel that he was struggling with some issues. I’ve worked with artists all my life and we’re not all that balanced. We all fight with the talents we have. But he was an artist and gave an incredible performance.”
When asked about his next film, “Life,” which is due out in 2015, and about Life magazine photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) who shoots photos of James Dean (Dane DeHaan), Corbijn said, “It has all been filmed and we’re nearly done with editing so it is close to finished. It is a very different kind of film, very life affirming.”
“A Most Wanted Man” has every ingredient you’d want in this genre. It is flawless. Get in spy thriller mode, go run to see it as if the CIA is chasing you. The film opens in New York City today, Fri., July 24. Rated R. Thriller. 121 minutes.