Vanilla Sky – Mesclun Art Media

Interview Tom Cruise/Penelope Cruz/Cameron Crowe

The people in the lecture room of the George V Hotel become agitated as the crew of Vanilla Sky enters the room. Cameron Crowe, a former rock journalist, looks relaxed. He and the beautiful Penelope Cruz have a seat next to Tom Cruise who has made big news lately. Indeed, the actor with very short hair hadn’t done a movie since summer 2000, since Mission Impossible 2. However, Cruise had not been idle those last few months: he starred in Minority Report for Steven Spielberg and in Vanilla Sky (he was very much written about because of his divorce with Nicole Kidman and his relationship with Penelope Cruz.). The actor talks about his latest movie, praises the qualities of his co-stars before signing autographs.

Here’s a report of this meeting:

Vanilla Sky deals with memory loss and the confusion between reality and fantasy. As you belong to the movie industry, the dream industry, have you ever been afraid not to differentiate the two?

CC: I’ve often looked at the people who just come out of the movie theatre and I’ve realized that they often had a look of suspicion on their face when they looked at the world around them, as if they’re wondering if they lived in a real world or not. I was really pleased that the movie brought about this kind of reaction. Actually, when we were doing the film, we were so immersed in the story, in the character’s development that we also wondered if we were living a dream.

PC: I’d find it very scary to lose memory of events and be conscious at the same time (laughs). As far as the memory confusion is concerned, it’s linked to acting; you’re conscious that you must constantly make the distinction between your life and your character. We have a part of the character in ourselves but we never fully become the character.

TC: I was sensitive to all these questions too. But if I had to choose between dreams and reality, I would make the same choice as my character: reality. In fact, it’s surprising to see how science gets closer to some parts of the film which look like they’re science-fiction. We’re closer to the border between dream and reality than we think we are. You know, I’ve traveled a lot and moved to different places when I was a child. I’d never have thought about becoming a movie star then. It’s unreal for me. But then I did Taps when I was 19. I often have the feeling to live in a dream but you’re quickly back to reality when certain events happen.

As those of September 11? Have you ever thought of digitally deleting the Twin Towers in the film?

CC: We could have deleted them but to destroy them once again would have been too much of a symbol. What’s interesting to see is that Sept 11 made people watch this film differently. People realize they should cherish life.

Tom, what attracted you in the character of David Aames?

TC: It’s a difficult part. He’s an interesting character because he changes in his emotional development after his accident. To get into the skin of this character, a disfigured man, I looked at pictures of victims of accidents, I also became aware of their trials and problems linked to reconstruction surgery. We met a lot of surgeons to get this result.

Was it trying to play with a mask?

It was uncomfortable and disconcerting because you become aware of the reality of the accident. Cameron and I found different ways to act in order to improve the actors’ performance.

Why did you make Vanilla Sky more explanatory than the original movie “Open your eyes” of Alejandro Amenabar?

CC: Some people have seen the movie four times and then said ‘Well I’ve finally understood it”. But others have seen it once and said they had understood it.  But if you put these two categories of people in the same room, you’ll see that after hours of discussion they will all have different and contradictory points of view on the movie.

TC: When people watch Vanilla Sky next year or in two years, they will discover aspects that they didn’t see the first time. The two movies are complementary. We didn’t want to make a simple remake. The plot was so rich that several views, several dialogues could be drawn from it.

CC: The challenge was to develop each character and explain as much as we could their emotional decisions. When Alejandro (Amenabar) saw the movie, he said that it was exactly the result that he could have given to his movie. As far as the end of the movie is concerned, I didn’t want to have a real end. I give the viewers time to interpret the end of the movie by giving them some clues.

Why did you decide to cast Penelope Cruz in the new version?

CC: I saw her in “Belle Epoque” and then I saw “Open your eyes” in which she was amazing. Penelope represents the soul of this story. She has a rare magic in her. I always liked her work. There were no rehearsals, it was HER role. We wanted to share this passion together.

PC: I never had the feeling to play the same character twice. There’s a link between the two but the views of Alejandro and Cameron are completely different. The unconcerned night bird became a combative girl who’s trying to find her place in New York.

You pay homage to a lot of artists in the film.

CC: Yes I do. I pay homage to Billy Wilder in the first scene and to pop music which has inspired us as much as movies have. I also put the bills of Jules and Jim and of “A bout de souffle’ which represent the emotional quest of David Aames. Both movies are symbols of romanticism. David Aames has all these images around him so he can have references that he can’t reach. This film has some aspects of the “comédie à la française” (French comedy).

Let’s talk about the absent. How was working with Cameron Diaz and Kurt Russell like?

TC: I wanted to work with Cameron Diaz for a long time. She accepted the role at once, before reading the scenario. Her character is very strong. Same thing with Kurt. I wanted to work with him for a long time. Cameron and I were thrilled when he said he would play in the movie. He joined us for two weeks and the result speaks for itself.

Tom, you dreamt of working with Cameron Crowe again. Please tell us the qualities that he has as a director?

TC: When you work with Cameron, you keep making progress and challenging yourself. He believes in romanticism and love. Vanilla Sky has been very important for him. He knows how to catch these brief moments that remain in your memory forever.

Tom, how do you see your career now?

Since I started, I’ve wanted to produce and work on the process of making films. That’s what I do today but I can’t do any film at random. I can always improve myself. I have more freedom in my choices. I can buy all the projects without the approval of the studio. It’s by taking risk that you gain the respect and trust of the studios. Let’s take Rain Man for instance. We were much criticized because of the cost (M$ 28). We doubted at the time. But now I’m really proud of it. Concerning Vanilla Sky, I was glad that Paramount financed this film that is different from what they usually produce. They’re very satisfied with the result. They acknowledge the talent of Cameron Crowe.


Courtesy of Mesclun Art Media – Translation by Karine Tanguy – January 22, 2002