Anton Corbijn: The photographer and film director on working with Philip Seymour Hoffman and the distortion of trailers

Corbijn photographed David Bowie, Joy Division and Clint Eastwood and worked with bands including U2 and Depeche Mode before turning to film

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The Independent Online

Philip Seymour Hoffman acted with every inch of his body I could watch him on film for an hour just smoking or drinking. I've watched almost everything he's been in. On the set of [Corbijn's new film] A Most Wanted Man, he sometimes looked a little worn out, but I had no idea about the extent of his difficulties. [Hoffman died last February of a drug overdose.] The day I first went to chat to him about the film, back in 2011, his trousers needed adjusting as he was due for a Vogue shoot [also shot by Corbijn] later that day, so he just sat there in his underwear as we chatted. He had no vanity, which was why he was an incredible actor.

It wasn't the espionage element that drew me to adapt 'A most Wanted Man' I wanted to make a film that dealt more with the world we live in after 9/11, and how it's had an effect on our lives. I felt that John le Carré's book [a spy thriller set in Hamburg] approaches a world where everything is polarised, in the way that people look at each other, which fascinated me.

The wrong people went to see my film 'The American' Having seen the trailer [which featured the principal action sequences in what is a restrained suspense thriller] – which I had no control over – they were expecting something with va-va-voom. So understandably the people who went to the cinema felt short-changed, while people who might have liked it stayed at home as they were put off by the trailer.

I'm quite shy by nature I think it has always held me back. But photography enabled me to become something else. Once you have a camera in your hand, it becomes a prop, which gave me licence to do anything I wanted: I could walk from the audience to the front of a stage at a gig.

It's much easier to photograph musicians than actors A lot of actors are so used to playing a character that it's hard for them to be open when they're not in character. But musicians generally are who they portray: they write their own songs, choose how to dress themselves; they know who they are.

People no longer show the other cheek I had a Christian upbringing and my father was a preacher. But these days I think people react very aggressively to everything that goes against their beliefs. It runs parallel with the advance of the internet: anybody can scream at anyone else and be nasty, as it promotes dehumanisation.

England was a different place in the 1970s There was no EU, and British culture was quite different. I travelled by train to cities in the Midlands and the North for the New Musical Express [as a photo-contributor] and what particularly struck me was how, from a train, you could see a lot of poverty; I hadn't realised that, so close to Holland, there was so much deprivation.

Spending time in nature gives me strength A lot of the stuff I do is stressful but a harmonious environment helps you find yourself again: I live in The Hague, and I often go cycling on the dunes: it's a beautiful, peaceful sight and gives me a great understanding of where I stand.

'You have to charge much more for your photography' That's the best piece of advice I ever got, from [Swiss musician] Dieter Meier. He told me, "If it costs a lot of money, people treat it much better." So I did. And it never went against me.

Anton Corbijn, 59, is a Dutch photographer, shooting the likes of David Bowie, Joy Division and Clint Eastwood; a music-video director, working with bands including U2 and Depeche Mode; and a film director. His latest movie, 'A Most Wanted Man', is out tomorrow on DVD

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