Bruce Sweeney talks about American Venus
Interview by Ralph Lucas
(October 13, 2007 – Toronto, Ontario) — There are certain kinds of movies I prefer seeing in a crowded theatre. Comedies, for example. It`s hard to judge if a film is truly funny if you see it at a media screening where you share a cinema designed to hold a few hundred people with, on occasion, fewer than 10 other writers or reviewers. Laughter enjoys company. Thrillers on the other hand work very well in nearly deserted theatres. I’ve always found large places that were meant for lots of people more than just a little creepy when they’re empty. About a week ago I watched American Venus along with a handful of other journalists and liked the fact that the suspension of disbelief all movies require wasn’t being constantly interrupted by some starving moviegoer grappling with handfuls of popcorn or loudly tearing the wrapper off a candy bar. I liked the movie and looked forward to talking with its director, Bruce Sweeney
NS – American Venus began life as a very different movie. Why did you decide to put aside some 18 months of work on your original idea to write this movie?
BS – Well, I tossed it out. I tossed it out because it wasn’t very good. Writing is mysterious. You can spend a great deal of time on something and then think, suddenly, this is shit, what am I doing. Anyone who has written has been there. I think in hindsight I feel happy with the decision because you leave something on the screen if you make it, right? I didn’t want to have a stinker film floating around. It`s just creepy to me.
NS – Rebecca De Mornay is terrific in her role as mom and her daughter`s skating coach. Calling her character overly-possessive is kind. What led you to choose her?
BS – Basically, the distributor gives you a sheet of paper with a bunch of names on it and you have to get one in order to make the film. We sent the script out and two or three people turned it down and so we sent it to Rebecca and she replied very very quickly and a meeting was set up. I flew down to L.A. and met with her and we hit it off right away.
NS – I think this is a good move for her career.
BS – Well, she’s been in mom-land. She has two kids of her own and she wants to get back to her acting career. What I like about her is that she really wanted to do this role. She really fell in love with the script and did everything to fulfill its promise.
NS – I was also impressed with Jane McGregor (pictured at right), who plays the role of a competitive skater who one day just quits when she realizes she just can’t do it anymore.
BS – Jane, she`s fabulous….
NS – She carries almost half the movie. She`s in almost every scene with Rebecca, and that`s a lot of screen time.
BS – Well, what we set up was this possessive mother and her daughter and this search for an identity post-skating. It`s interesting to me at that point they no longer have a role together anymore. Here are two people who have traveled the world together going from skating competition to skating competition and suddenly it`s over, and… what do you do? Say a year and a half prior to the film starting some sort of rupture took place and the film takes the rest of its duration to answer that question.
NS – Rounding out the cast you have Matt Craven and Nicholas Lea. You were really blessed with a terrific cast.
BS – Absolutely.
NS – American Venus has a terrific look to it.
BS – What I wanted in this film was a lot of crane movement, as opposed to dolly movement. We “crane down” on Rebecca in the opening shot, and we have crane downs at the gun range, and you get this notion of descension, but in filmlanguage I wanted to make it have that sort of momentum. The idea was to try to take the interior mental state of Rebecca`s character and put that into camera moves. I wanted to do Douglas Sirk. Not with the camera movement, but with the use of colour.
NS – The colour in American Venus is also terrific.
BS – We had a lot of blues. Blue is the dominant colour in our production design. It was very very cold and we used a lot of white. Rebecca was always dressed in the contrasting colour. Her house was very spare, very bright and not cluttered.
NS – Let’s go back to my first question. Your original idea. The one you tossed out. Will you ever go back to that idea?
BS – No. It’s done. It’s like, you know, you watch a DVD and they have some deleted scenes? I watch them and I have yet to see a scene that shouldn’t have been a deleted scene. So, I’ll just delete right at home.
NS – What are you working on next?
BS – A film called No Oil. It’s a film about Fort McMurray.
NS – Fort McMurray then? Or Fort McMurray now?
BS – Fort McMurray now.
NS – I look forward to it. Thanks for talking to Northernstars.ca
BS – Thank you.
Also see: The Cast & Crew of American Venus.