British filmmaker Rupert Wyatt had been making a number of short films before his directorial debut, the prison movie The Escapist, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. That was an impressive enough film that Hollywood quickly came a-calling, and he ended up helming the high-profile reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, which was a blockbuster hit.
Wyatt’s third feature film is The Gambler, a new take on the 1974 James Caan movie about a university English professor with a gambling problem. In this case, it’s Mark Wahlberg who plays Jim Bennett, who we meet as he’s at the blackjack table in an underground L.A. casino. After a few risky decisions, Bennett has put himself increasingly into debt with a number of shady characters including ones played by John Goodman and Michael K. Williams (“The Wire”). The Korean casino owner has given him just seven days to pay off his debts.
Although the film is a tense crime thriller that takes place within the gritty lifestyle of underground casinos and loan sharks, it’s very much a character piece that shows how Jim deals with his relationships while facing this potentially life-threatening situation. These include his mother, played by Jessica Lange, a couple of his students, including a particularly bright one played by Brie Larson, and more.
Working from another great screenplay by The Departed’s Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monaghan and with such a great cast, Wyatt’s created an incredibly visual film that mixes the stunning cinematography of Australia’s Greg Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty) with a number of unconventional music choices.
ComingSoon.net sat down with Wyatt a few weeks back, having spoken to him over five years ago for his directorial debut The Escapist, and he once again showed us his insightful and eloquent thoughts on making movies.
In the video interview below, we spoke about:
* The built-in issues with directing a remake and the big differences between the two movies
* What attracted him to the film and the differences in gambling since the original movie
* Telling a story through the visuals especially the opening sequence
* How he was brought onboard by Mark Wahlberg and some of the previous filmmakers
* Talking about the “Apes” reboot (and that coincidental connection to Wahlberg)
* The decision to make a smaller and more intimate film and making decisions in general
* Capturing some of the feel of the original movie’s screenplay while doing something different
* The casting of the supporting characters around Wahlberg
* Talking about some of the unconventional music choices mixing Dylan, Pulp and Alan Price’s “Poor People”
* What he may do next and what happened with his planned adaptation of Birdsong
The Gambler opens nationwide on Thursday, December 25. Look for more interviews with the cast as we get closer.