Variety Q&A W/ Childhood of a Leader’s Director Brady Corbet

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Picture edit courtesy of Nicole

Q&A W/ Brady Corbett by Variety’s Damon Wise

A well-known actor on the indie circuit, racking up well over a half dozen appearances in low-budget U.S. and European productions last year alone, Brady Corbet, who turned 27 in August, recently made his directing debut with “The Childhood of a Leader” – a film that last month caught the eye of Jonathan Demme’s Orrizonti jury, which awarded it the best director prize at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. Invoking the spirit of the young Orson Welles, Demme later described the film, which is repped by Protagonist Pictures, as “dazzling and exquisitely original” ahead of a one-off screening later this month at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York.

Loosely inspired by the early childhood experiences of many of the most infamous dictators of the 20th century, “The Childhood of a Leader” stars Berenice Bejo and Liam Cunningham as an American couple settling into the French countryside at the end of the World War I, at which time the father is involved in the delicate peace negotiations surrounding the Treaty of Versailles. His wife is a devout Christian who struggles with the tantrums of their son (Tom Sweet), an angelic-looking boy whose behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing. Robert Pattinson and Stacy Martin also appear in the film, which also brought Corbet a cash prize in the form of Luigi De Laurentiis award for best debut.

Transcript

Variety: How would you describe your film, “The Childhood of a Leader”?

Brady Corbet: The film is a chronicle of the childhood experiences of a megalomaniac at the end of the first world war. We were not too interested in pointing at specific instances of cause and effect, however, so the film strings together a series of episodes that evoke the possibility of causality but is designed to leave viewers to identify their own prompting factors.

Variety: Is it a script you developed yourself? What was the process?

Corbet: I began writing a version of the script on my own ten years ago. I put it down because I was worried it was “too big” to make as a debut picture. My partner, Mona Fastvold, convinced me to pick it back up and she breathed new life into it. We finished it together

Variety: Why did you want to tell this story?

Corbet: I’ve always been very interested in the Paris Peace Conference and the interwar period between 1918 and 1939.

Variety: How did you cast the film?

Corbet: We offered roles to our adult cast members, and held simple auditions (one page of text) for the boys reading for the main role. Des Hamilton and his great team found Tom Sweet and brought him in. Tom was everything we had envisioned and more. He is the film’s greatest triumph.

Variety: How did Robert Pattinson get involved?

Corbet: Robert Pattinson is a friend of ours, and we really have a lot of common interests and tastes. He’s really charismatic, and we thought it would be wonderful to apply that charisma to these very early, seemingly unimportant sequences, and only really by the end of the film do you realise how significant they are.

Variety: Where did you shoot, and what were you looking for, location-wise?

Corbet: The story is mostly set in France but was shot in Hungary at the strong suggestion of our production designer and creative partner Jean-Vincent Puzos. This was not only for tax reasons, which suited the production, but because he knew how extraordinary the crews were there… We were seeking out massive set-pieces with the bones of what we had in mind already in place as we couldn’t afford to build much.

Variety: How did you persuade composer Scott Walker to get on board?

Corbet: I wrote him a letter and sent them through to everyone I thought might be able to reach him… When he finally received it, he replied with a yes very quickly. It was a great day.

Variety: What are your hopes for the film?

Corbet: Our hopes have already been exceeded in some ways. The prizes for best director and best debut film at Venice have helped very much for the film’s awareness, so now we just hope that audiences continue to keep an open mind to the experience.

Variety: What’s next for you?

Corbet: Mona Fastvold is at work on her next film, an adaptation of a sweeping and swooning novel set in the late 1940s, so that will keep us busy. I’m also enjoying some time off with our daughter while conceiving my new film, which so far is more free, more radical than “Childhood.”

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  • Amber

    I’m extremely happy with the reception that Brady’s directorial debut is receiving. Not only is he a terrific director, but he also appears to be a very nice guy. I really like the friendship between Rob, and he and his wife.

    • nicole

      I am very curious about this movie. I hope they’ll do a project together again.

    • Imogen

      Same here, he and Mona must be so thrilled with how well it’s being received. ITA about their friendship too, theres a really old pap video from when rob was first getting known and Brady is with him then. I’m sure you’ve seen it 🙂

  • alice
    • InCogNeTo

      Good morning, Alice! Hope you had a great weekend.

      • alice

        Hi very good thanks!

  • InCogNeTo

    Whenever I read articles about COAL, the writers always express surprise that a first time director chose to start out their career with a movie dealing with COAL’s subject matter. They act as if because Brady is young and untried, he almost shouldn’t have dared to wade into these waters. I don’t know if that’s just a general underestimation of younger people as a whole, or if that attitude is a direct result of the material produced by the younger generation in the past.

    • nicole

      IMHO they are just surprised that he has chosen something “heavy” and not a more accessible plot for his first movie. And there is always Orson Wells, and I saw his name mentioned in an article about CoaL :))

    • Just A Guest

      Michod’s first film wasn’t exactly a load of fluff either. Perhaps not as much left to the viewer to figure out and decide about but more about human behavior and the why people turn out how they do than a fancy car chase. Glad that some of the younger artists are not going for easy and predictable stories. Glad they don’t give up when people say no or it takes years to actually get a film funded and made the way they envision it. So many of the films from HW now are retreads of old films and sequels that are little more than bland entertainment with truck loads of cgi and absolutely nothing you have to engage your brain for to be entertained. Nothing wrong with just entertainment films, but that seems to be all there is these days that gets promoted. Unfortunately many of the classic films that were made in the past by big studios would never see the light of day there now. Good for the new generation of film makers trying to make these films in the indie /art house world still, but how many have given up trying because funding is so difficult to find and there are not any small film budgets at the HW studios much anymore.

    • Natasha

      They expect mediocrity because, for the most part, that’s the level at which the bar has been set.

  • InCogNeTo

    As time goes on, it seems that box office is becoming passe to everything but huge blockbusters like Jurassic Park. Well, now that I think about it, that isn’t exactly true cause look at how successful Compton was: https://twitter.com/THR/status/656021981964423172

  • InCogNeTo

    Time for class!

  • Just A Guest

    I really hate droughts. Even if it is for a good reason and is a new film. This one seems so long because we were so spoiled lately I think. Hope all is going well and maybe when the film shoot is complete we will get a morsel of Rob here and there. Next month should be better since finally will get to see Rob’s film LIFE. Was hoping for QOTD too but that may be a little longer wait. Then on to the next film. Have a good day everyone! 🙂

    • Jamie

      Droughts are the worst! I think its going to be like this for a while since he’s going from movie set to movie set.

      • Imogen

        ????????????????

  • Jamie

    This is hilarious! In honor of October, LOL! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRWtgYnMpR0

    • Imogen

      Lol!

      It reminds me off this

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=adap4rzlM2I

      Don’t watch if you get scared tho ????

      • Sophia

        HAHAHA! That woman was stupid! I would have been out of that house the second I saw that first appearance! She went to bed! Pffft! ????????????

      • Sophia

        They probably used the same effect ???????????? Some of these YouTube personalities are making a lot of money! Did you know that PewDiepie made 12 million last year just by doing stupid walkthroughs for video games? I think I need to create my own YouTube channel!

        • Jamie

          Another one is making 8 million.

          • Sophia

            We totally have to get in on that!????

          • Jamie

            LOL not me, Soph. I’m terrible at stuff like that.

        • Imogen

          Omg you soooo should ???? Like seriously

          Sophia’s world

          • Sophia

            I would make Bella the squirrels living in my world! ????

      • Sophia

        I could call it, Sophia Knows All! ????

      • Jamie

        LOL! Who would go to sleep after that?

        • Sophia

          A blonde like ⬅⬅⬅

        • Imogen

          I don’t think she got any sleep, lol!

          This one is just creepy! What would you do??

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNQIdEv-Emo

          • Jamie

            Now this one scared me! Was that a movie? OMG freaky. I would have freaked out.

          • Imogen

            It’s seriously creepy. The people who makes these shorts are so talented. All that in two minutes. Wow.

          • Sophia

            This has to have been a movie!

          • Imogen

            No it’s just a short for a competition I think. It’s fantastic isn’t it 🙂

    • Sophia

      LOL betcha that ghost will know not to mess with them again!????

  • Frannie

    I miss Rob 🙁 hope to get pics soon, does that make me a bad fan?? we should get some on his next movie, it won’t be in the jungle lol

    • Jamie

      No, not at all. I can never have enough, Rob news. Probaby terrible, but I would be overjoyed with set pics.

  • Sophia

    In the footsteps of Robert Pattinson https://www.facebook.com/robsfootsteps/photos/a.1406731539560753.1073741828.1406715152895725/1688625608038010/?type=3

    20 mins ·

    DIMPLIFLY: 14 male Celebrities With And Without Beards- Which Is Sexier- You Decide! Incl. Rob

    In English Victorian times, men who sported beards, were considered to be not only more Virile, but mature and considerably desirable. This notion of beards and sexiness, is still very much alive today. Whether or not there is any validity with this notion, its interesting to look at how remarkably different men can appear, simply by growing a beard.

    Source: http://dimplify.com/post/15461

    • Sophia

      For me no competition! WITHOUT! ????

    • Jamie

      I like a little bit of scruff, but not the full beard.

      • Sophia

        Some scruff is okay, just not the mountain man look!

    • Frannie

      I prefer no beard, I like a little scruff also!! boy was he ever beautiful as Edward tho!!

      • Sophia

        Edward was beyond dreamy 🙂

      • zZzstock

        I liked the way he looked in Twilight because he’s handsome no matter what but I think he looks better on his own without the funny makeup and questionable plucked black eyebrows. Even Rob said the brows looked very suspicious!

        • Sophia

          But the New Moon walk Z!

          • zZzstock

            He was naked there. It was a huge bonus and the makeup wasn’t as crazy even though he was sparking. If he went to that place in Italy as a tourist and recreated the scene for fun, I’m sure he’d look great even without the sparkles. Of course he’d have to shave his beard first

    • zZzstock

      In the footsteps made by his feet clad in the two sizes too small Birkenstock sandals.

      • Sophia

        ???????????? I’m watching Edward Cullen video’s on YouTube!

    • Imogen

      I kind of like it, maybe not the madness going on right now but….more than scruff ????

      • Sophia

        He looks great regardless, but I like the clean look with just a little bit of scruff ;p

        • zZzstock

          me too but I don’t mind the beard in this photo either. The beard he has now looks funny. I’m sure it’s full of knots when he combs it.

          • Sophia

            That is if a comb can even go through that! ????

          • Imogen

            Tangle teaser or mini rake? ????

          • zZzstock

            He tried tangle teaser but broke the teeth. He normally uses combs but now he has to use a wire brush like this http://www.gordonbrush.com/images/brassblockbrush.jpg

          • Imogen

            Good idea. I’ve used something like that on horses when they’re covered in dry mud ????

          • zZzstock

            Rob plans to put his beard to very good use. Once he’s done filming this is what he plans to do. Twigs doesn’t know yet. ???? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2540490/This-chick-digs-hairy-men-Animal-lover-puts-facial-hair-good-use-raising-orphaned-chick-beard.html

          • Imogen

            Omg!!! LOL

            Baby chickens?

          • zZzstock

            Yes, this man might have failed in his attempt to hatch chicken eggs in his beard but Rob strongly believes he’ll manage to do it. If his poultry can’t give him more chickens, he will take care of it himself. Rob is determined and ready.

          • Imogen

            We will see who exactly rules that ‘roost’ soon then Z ????;P

      • Sophia

        The hair will hide his face, pffft!

        • Imogen

          Even his man fur is something to wonder at. Lol

          But yeah, he’s incomparable.

        • nicole

          more time to look deep into his eyes….
          I like him all ways 😉

          • Sophia

            It probably itches tho ????

          • nicole

            I am used to this 🙂

        • zZzstock

          His hair will work as a curtain.

      • Sophia

        WOW! The pic just came up!

    • nicole

      i like the shirt lol

    • Marielle

      He is great looking, but the thing I love the most about him is how sweet and humble he is.

  • Jamie
  • alice

    Hello! QOTD special screening At AFI

    • Just A Guest

      Just saw you posted this. I posted the blurb from his IMDB board above. Hope this will get a confirmed date for release here. 🙂

      • alice

        I’ ve posted the article on QOTD board too ????

  • alice

    from robjectify
    No Rob/set pics, but there’s lots pics on location. #TheLostCityOfZ
    https://t.co/fOLY46ncMG
    https://t.co/NCetAptZ66 https://t.co/ZviCHSJ3KX

  • Imogen

    So good to read. He should so proud of how well he’s being thought of in the industry 😀

    https://twitter.com/rpat360/status/656189408194916360

    • alice

      Indeed! Go Rob!

  • Just A Guest

    From IMDB board:

    AFI FEST has also revealed today its Special Screenings section, which will feature 45 YEARS (DIR Andrew Haigh); ANOMALISA (DIR Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, AFI Class of 2006); CAROL (DIR Todd Haynes); LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT (DIR Rodrigo García); THE LOBSTER (DIR Yorgos Lanthimos); MACBETH (DIR Justin Kurzel); and QUEEN OF THE DESERT (DIR Werner Herzog).

    The full festival lineup and schedule will be unveiled on Wednesday, October 21. The 29th edition of AFI FEST will take place November 5–12, 2015, in the heart of Hollywood.

  • Just A Guest

    https://twitter.com/AFMOFFICIAL/with_replies

    http://americanfilmmarket.com

    NOVEMBER 4 – 11, 2015 SANTA MONICA

    “AFM is the largest annual motion picture trade event where 8,000 film industry leaders from 80 countries come for 8 days of deal-making, conferences & more.”
    Santa Monica, CA

    http://i.imgbox.com/nE0W2Ey5.jpg

  • Just A Guest
    • Just A Guest

      I love that they give credit to Rob fans and their sites for translating and spreading the pics about internet. The HQ pics are wonderful. So excited for this film. Oh and could we please get one little jungle Rob pic, please?

      • InCogNeTo

        I was just thinking the same! I love that they mentioned RP Australia and the pics are indeed beautiful!

      • booksfangirl

        So cool that they got recognition! The fan sites are almost always ahead of journalists when it comes to info.

    • Imogen

      Have you seen this from the editor?? His Most anticipated ????????????????????????????????

      Going to be fantastic!!!

      https://twitter.com/jpraup/status/656209317670989824

      • Just A Guest

        I just saw that too. So nice. Glad to hear the fanboys are looking forward to this too. Should be a great tale of adventure and obsession. Another different kind of role for Rob. And next a crook on the run and then a surfer thug doling out lessons for his boss. So much stuff to come. Happy.
        Oh almost forgot about the astronaut part in the Sci-fi flick. So cool.

        • Imogen

          Those ww1 scenes look appalling and therefore perfectly authentic, if the jungle scene are shot as beautifully, which I’m sure they are then this is huge film.

          • Just A Guest

            I agree. So much attention to detail. Not a sugar coated version of exploration I think. A lot of horrendous things happened in the jungle to many of the men that accompanied Fawcett on his trips, including the character Rob plays I have heard. At least he doesn’t get bumped off in this one. 🙂

          • Imogen

            Um ????

            lol I’m not sure it’ll be much better, maybe worse!

          • Just A Guest

            You know Rob is going to love this bit if it is in the film. I understand it turns out okay and the reason HC did not return for the last fateful expeditions is because his wife and family were not willing to have him leave and go through that again.

          • Imogen

            I’m dreading what they could make him look like, lol and he is going to absolutely kill the scenes around what happens ????????

  • Imogen

    This is a nice easy read about the lcoz ‘adventures’

    Probable Spoilers about the film 🙂 if you’re avoiding knowing what happened.

    http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2014/08/the-mysterious-lost-expedition-for-the-city-z/

    • Just A Guest

      I love your pumpkin!

      • Imogen

        He’s a cutie, lol