torsdag den 19. november 2015

"Truth": Interview med Cate Blanchett og James Vanderbilt

Halvandet år efter at Cate Blanchett vandt en Oscar for Woody Allens "Blue Jasmine", er den fænomenale australske skuespiller endelig biografaktuel igen. I den glimrende politiske spændingsfilm "Truth" spiller hun Mary Mapes, der indtil 2004 var producer på "60 Minutes", CBS-selskabets journalistiske flagskib.

Mary Mapes' graverhold afslørede bl.a. amerikanske soldaters overgreb på fangerne i Abu Ghraib-lejren. Men et indslag om den siddende præsident George W. Bush og hans fortid i nationalgarden – hvor han angiveligt blev placeret for at undgå tjeneste i Vietnam – bragte Mapes i uføre.

Kort efter udsendelsen gik republikanske bloggere i kødet på nyhedsholdets research. Polemikken om detaljernes sandhed flyttede fokus væk fra indholdet og over på budbringeren. CBS håndterede krisen ved at fyre Mary Mapes. Hendes mentor, programmets legendariske vært Dan Rather (spillet af Robert Redford), valgte selv at træde af. Mapes har aldrig siden arbejdet med tv.

Jeg mødte Cate Blanchett, da hun besøgte London Film Festival i oktober 2015. Portrætinterviewet kan læses i denne uges udgave af Weekendavisen (20.-27. november).

Mit overskydende materiale med Blanchett, som ikke fandt plads i artiklen, kan du læse kvit og frit her på bloggen. Det samme gælder mit interview med amerikanske James Vanderbilt, som har skrevet og instrueret "Truth". Vanderbilt har tidligere skrevet manuskript til David Finchers thriller "Zodiac" (2007), der ligesom "Truth" skildrer et journalistisk scoop og går i dybden med journalistfagets processer.

INTERVIEW (uddrag/excerpts):
Cate Blanchett - "Truth"
Brian Iskov, London 18. oktober 2015

”The only reason to re-examine something that happened in the past is if it has contemporary relevance. I think there's a lot, in the wake of this scandal, which is a very particular pocket of recent American media history, that has gone unexamined. And I think the proximity of our politicians to our media organizations, to our big corporates, we don't question very often who owns what. What is the agenda of this outlet? What deals are going on behind the [scenes]? But the film is also about the process of putting stories together, which even in the ten-eleven years since this story was aired, I think it's changed enormously. And the way we consume and disseminate information has changed enormously.”

”There was no Twitter [in 2004], and I think Mary [Mapes] and Dan found themselves in quite unchartered waters. Not only in their relationship to the news organization that they'd given their careers to, developed their careers through and given a great deal of loyalty to, but also that sort of invisible opinionating that we just take as fact, frankly, a lot of the time on the internet, was just beginning to emerge.”

”I think [Mary] alternated between rage and despair [over] how quickly the truth of the story was lost from her perspective, in a smokescreen of details. Because journalists, as you know, are not in the legal profession. Their job is to ask the questions, and I think she felt that somehow the questions were getting lost. But she's not bitter; she's moved on. There's definitely a wound, the resultant wound of your reputation being decimated and your career being destroyed, [and] what you thought was the collegiate spirit that existed in your profession evaporating. And I think the wound's still there for CBS [too].”

Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett & Bruce Greenwood, "Truth" | © Scanbox Entertainment

”It's always interesting to look at someone's background, like the fact that Dan Rather began as a ditch-digger in Wharton, Texas. He understood hardship, and that probably underpinned his desire ... He would go into Iraq. He wouldn't want to sit on a Sky newsdesk having a facelift. He was the guy who actually went out and searched for the news, and it probably gave Mary an enormous resilience. If you listen to her laugh ... She doesn't get to laugh very much in this film, because she's in constant crisis, ha ha! But she has an infectious gallows sense of humour that clearly came out of trying to make her sisters laugh. She used to put a tea cozy on her father's head as he was nodding off in an alcoholic stupor.”

”Mary grew up in a really violent and hilarious household, and that gave her not only a particular humorous attack on life, but also a courage to confront people when things were important. She's also got a very strong sense of loyalty and a desire to protect and nurture the underdogs. A lot of the stories that she went after were the disenfranchised of America who are on Death Row. And she liked uncovering cultural controversy. But a lot of it had to do with people who had been dispossessed. She likes unearthing pockets of hypocrisy. Yes, I can put her on the couch and do a bad Psychology 101 and say, "It's all bound up in having an alcoholic father and watching her mothers and her sisters suffer". But I'm sure it's more complex than that.”

Topher Grace, Cate Blanchett & James Vanderbilt, LFF | © Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for BFI

James Vanderbilt - "Truth"
Brian Iskov, London 18. oktober 2015

"Journalism is sort of the road not taken for me; if I hadn't gone into this, I really would have taken on journalism because it's a noble profession, but also giving information is telling stories. It's the same sort of thing."

"”Truth” is, to me, a fascinating story about these people trying to do their jobs really, really well, and everything they run into. That's just not the journalists in it, but everybody. We sort of approached this as everybody in the film is trying to do their jobs under increasingly difficult circumstances."

"I grew up in a time where there were three anchors in the States that you got your hard news from. Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings. Dan inherited the chair from Walter Cronkite. That lineage was an enormously important thing. There were these three voices of God, kind of, you got your stories from. Now I have ten thousand voices in my pocket [cell phone]. That's not to say it's worse now, and it was better then. But it's very, very different. One of the things I loved about his story was, this was sort of the moment that the Internet really came alive for the first time and affected a story with this kind of backlash and speed. A friend of mine calls it, "We now live in the 24/7 news cycle". This was the first time that really happened, and now it's something we deal with every day. ”There's another outrage on Twitter”, you know. I was fascinated by that aspect of it."

Elisabeth Moss, Cate Blanchett, Topher Grace & Dennis Quaid, "Truth" | © Scanbox Entertainment

"It was not lost upon us that "All the President's Men" [Alan J. Pakula's Watergate thriller from 1976] was a film about two journalists who are doing a story on a sitting president, and this is [the same]. And they have markedly different outcomes. I think investigative journalism is a bit of an endangered species right now, and a lot of that has to do with money. News organizations are spending less and less money on letting reporters to longer-lead stories, because the speed of things has picked up so much."

"I have gotten the question: Is [the news media situation] worse now that it was then? And I don't think it's that reductive, like "old is good, new is bad". I think it's different, and the access that the internet [provides], that we can get to all of these different voices, is wonderful as a tool. In practice, it's not necessarily always working out the best way it can. It's like when 24-hour news first started. I remember thinking: "This is amazing because they're gonna be able to cover stories in much more depth now". What actually happens is, it's the same five stories, the same five minutes again every half hour."

"[After writing the first draft,] in late 2007 I started trying to put the film together, and I very quickly realized that people were perceiving the film as being about President Bush. Because he was still in office. And I kept saying, "No, it's not, it's about journalism". The line I would use is, "'All the President's Men' is not really a movie about Nixon, it's about these guys working on this story. And this is not a movie about President Bush." But I think we were still so close to the events that people couldn't see it."

James Vanderbilt, London Film Festival | © John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI

"I tried to do a ton of homework on [how to direct a film]. I talked to a lot of different directors who I admired and basically took them to lunch and said, "Could you tell me how to direct a movie in two hours, please." A lot of them were wonderful and obliged. I sat there with a pen and paper, and I took notes. I read books on directing actors ... I was like, if I stink at this, it's not going to be because I'm not prepared. It will legitimately be because I stink at it. People told me, "Well, it's an extension of screenwriting". Which is a complete lie. Because screenwriting is, you sit in a room alone and basically make stuff up and talk to yourself. And directing is, you stand in a giant room with a hundred people staring at you all of the time, asking you questions. So it's like comparing apples to 767's. But it was phenomenally exciting. Working with the actors was my favourite part of it, and how much I enjoyed that was maybe the thing that surprised me the most."

"Mary [Mapes] came on set one day with Dan [Rather]. When I [first] met her, she was really in a bad place because it had been just about a year since it all happened. She was very angry, and understandably so. I think she's gotten some peace now in the ensuing years. I heard her say the other day, "I had 15 great years at CBS and 5 bad months". So she had an amazing career going on that was derailed, completely, spectacularly. The amount of culpability she herself had in it, sure, there is culpability there. But she never worked again."

Topher Grace, Dan Rather, Elisabeth Moss & James Vanderbilt, Toronto 2015 | © Getty Images/TIFF

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