QUESTION: What about the research?
JOHN MALKOVICH: I read a lot. I also didnt just want to do the story of The Shining Path, which is why it just says Latin America - the recent past.
QUESTION: It seems important to you to handle the political part of the very in a very delicate manner?
JOHN MALKOVICH: Yes because usually when politics are handled in the cinema, and quite often in journalism, it doesnt strike me as particularly well informed. Its just people shooting off their mouths. This particular policeman was someone quite special because not only did he capture Guzman, he also captured Montesinos who we call Calderon, who now lives in a jail next door to Guzman. But its not a black and white politic of hero and villain.
QUESTION: Do you think it fair to regard Rejas as a hero?
JOHN MALKOVICH: A hero with the simple definition of human - I mean a human engaged in a struggle in a film that is essentially about corruption and the various forms of corruption, whether they be political, financial, ideological or emotional. To me I see it much more as a film like High Noon than a European art film. Thats how I look at it. Its a very strong story and you want to find out what happens next.
QUESTION: The complex relationship between Rejas and the three women in his life - his wife, daughter and the dance teacher - seems important for you to investigate in this film?
JOHN MALKOVICH: I think its something that most people have lived so they understand that sort of occurrence passing through ones life. Its something Im not very judgmental about, at all. That happens. When it happens I think it brings to bear a number of contradictory sentiments, emotions and life choices. And it can destroy as much as it can create. So its very complicated. In this story Rejas married someone and fell in love with someone who probably he doesnt have a remarkable number of similarities with but who he is amused by and gets along with and has a love for. He then is attracted to somebody who probably does have a lot of similarities with him. I always mistrust when things dont have the requisite complication. Thats not to be pretentious its because in my experience things are normally more complicated than we realise or they are purported to be or we could possibly know.
QUESTION: Was Javier Bardem always your first choice for Rejas?
JOHN MALKOVICH: I cast before he had even met Julian Schnabel for Before Night Falls. It was six years ago. He was originally my first choice for Juan Diego Bottos role because he was so young then. The people who were then funding the film - but not funding it as it turned out - wanted a known actor so we talked to a couple of other people. One of whom Daniel Day Lewis responded and wrote a lovely letter and was very nice about it but didnt want to do it and the other we never heard back from. But when I met with Javier he expressed an interest in playing Rejas. As I explored his work I thought his idea was much better than mine. Mercifully the film was cancelled just before we were to start shooting which meant Javier was five years older and had done Julians wonderful film in English by this time and his English had improved markedly and he had studied very hard. And he was able to communicate maturity even though he was still young, that helped us.
QUESTION: Why was it important to make the film mainly in English?
JOHN MALKOVICH: When I started doing this film I had never worked in another language - except in very limited ways - and I dont speak Spanish. And so I would have felt uncomfortable working in another language. That was one thing but the reason that the film got made was because Lola Films in Madrid had a division funded to make films in English with a Latin market in mind. So there was no desire to do it in Spanish. If I did another film like that I would go through the same process of thinking about language.
QUESTION: What would you hope audiences would take from seeing The Dancer Upstairs?
JOHN MALKOVICH: That it is a very well structured, ambitious, challenging film that also is very involving. I think it shows that there is an audience for things that are not so knee jerk, retarded, stuffed down our throats. There is an audience for something reflective and contemplative. Provided that the things that are reflective or contemplative compel us. People dont like to be bored and I dont think there is anything boring in this movie. They dont like to be bored and I agree with them. But if you have pretentions to want to do a film that is reflective, or contemplative or thoughtful then your duty to compel people to watch it is multiplied because they are giving you that possibility but you have to give them something back. And I think this film does that - people dont leave the theatre and say boy that was obscure.
Release Date: 6th Dec
Running Time: 133 mins