Rian Johnson: How I went from Brick to Brothers Bloom

Californian writer and film director Rian Johnson achieved critical acclaim in 2005 for a low budget neo-noir murder mystery movie inspired by Dashiell Hammett detective novels called ‘Brick.’ His second film, ‘Brothers Bloom,’ which hits cinemas in the UK tomorrow, is an intense departure from the edginess and careful stylisation of Johnson’s debut. It is instead a light-hearted conman movie, filled with slapstick capers and cons within cons, which might miss the mark for early converts to Johnson’s initial Wes Anderson-alike style, but which possesses a kooky, if self-aware, charm.

In the film, orphaned brothers Stephen and Bloom (Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody, pictured above) are gentlemen criminals, who dress in anachronistic Blues Brothers suits and hats. They’re a clever pair, whose fraudulent antics began almost from birth. Following a well worn storyline, Bloom vows to go straight but is persuaded by Stephen to partake in once last con, thus finding himself embroiled in an attempt to bankrupt the beautiful, but totally cuckoo heiress Penelope Stamp (a convincingly dippy Rachel Weisz). Various complicated plotlines send the characters across the globe in pursuit of a fortune, with one of the brothers inevitably falling for the guileless heiress. Robbie Coltrane makes an amusing cameo as cartoonish Maximillen “The Curator” Melvile. And Rinko Kikuchi is a fabulous, if mute, foil to the brothers’ criminal activities starring as their sexy sidekick (and explosives expert) Bang Bang.



So how did Johnson make the transition from Brick to Brothers Bloom? The Independent Online caught up with him in London to find out.



How did you get into writing/directing films?



I grew up making movies really. As teenager I went everywhere with a camera in my hand. I studied at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and wrote the script for Brick virtually straight out of college. I then spent most of my twenties trying to get the film made.



Was it difficult getting studios interested in Brick?



Yes. It is a very weird script. It’s basically a Dashiell Hammett story set in a high school. The story is a murder story about a guy whose ex-girlfriend is found dead. I don’t really know how to describe it actually, as it’s a difficult movie to describe and make it sound good. [Laughs] It was eventually filmed in my old high school, actually, although it was nothing like my school really.

Because of the weird script I had a hard time getting money for it. So I got a series of day jobs. In my opinion the only difference between people who make it those who don’t, is that the former have greater persistence. We got funding for the movie the day before I turned 30 and I felt very lucky.



Trailer: Brothers Bloom



What happened once filming was over?



Well, it was quite a slow process actually to gauge the response. It cost $500,000 to make and we filmed it in 20 days. It wasn’t a great commercial or financial success initially, but it was distributed by Focus Features and then amazingly it got picked up at Sundance. [Brick was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005].



How did writing and making Brick compare with Bloom?



There were obvious practical differences in that Brick was done on a much tighter budget. So when I was writing the script for Bloom I could write things like ‘and then the castle blows up…’ without worrying about whether or not we could execute it. But the creative process for both was basically the same once you got into the actual day-to-day work of filming.



So, what’s next?



I’m working on a new project called ‘Looper.’ It’s a science fiction film. It will be very different from Bloom or Brick, but hopefully still fun. It is a bit weird I suppose, that I’ve gone from high school to cons to sc-fi.



You’re still at the casting stage for Looper. I understand you’re in talks with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who played the lead in Brick) about the film?



Nothing’s been confirmed yet. My producer is probably listening outside and will come in here and shoot me if I say anything I shouldn’t. All I can say is: we want someone good.



Bloom was released in the US last year. What’s the response been like?



People seem to like it. It has divided opinion among some. I’m always surprised at how much rage movies can inspire, especially when they’re supposed to be fun. I guess some people were expecting the next movie to be in the same vein as Brick and because it wasn’t I can understand why they might get upset. But I’ve also had some really great feedback about it.



As a writer and director, would you consider directing other people’s scripts or writing for other directors?



I won’t say that I’d never direct something somebody else had written, but I see the two disciplines as intrinsically linked. For now I don’t see myself doing it, but that’s not to say I won’t one day.



What do think of the problem of illegal downloads versus DVD sales?



I really hope that what happened to the music industry won’t happen to the movie industry. It’s tough because the switchover from DVD to the internet hasn’t really happened yet, even though DVDs are probably dying. There are a few places where you can by streaming links online and there are a few people being creative with online offerings. But the industry is still reliant on companies which sell DVDs so the innovation in this area seems to be driven by the directors. I recently recorded a commentary for Bloom which people can download onto their iPods and listen to while they watch the movie. It would be great if there could be a more creative approach to sales and merchandising based on download codes or streaming links.



Have you got anything in the pipeline for after Looper?



God you’re insatiable! What else do you want from me, my life? No, seriously. I haven’t told anyone this yet, but I was thinking last night it would be great to do an old fashioned murder mystery. Like an Agatha Christie, I love her! It’s a genre which is so popular in fiction but is really difficult to translate onto screen. Yep, no more Dashiell Hammetts, Agatha Christie is next.



The Brothers Bloom hits cinemas UK-wide from 4th June 2010

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...