Roberts recently returned to New Mexico for the film's cast and crew premiere. Alibi took the opportunity to chat with him about filming his first movie here in the Land of Enchantment.
Around the Bend was basically the first film to be released under the new Warner Independent banner. That's got to be a pretty good boost for you.
Yeah, it was great. They've actually procured some films, but this is the first one that they've 100 percent financed. They were incredibly courageous. They took a shot on a script that was unusual and a story that was–for the time we're living in now–unusual. It was very thoughtful and emotional. And I'd never done anything, so they took a big risk.
As a first-time director, you attracted a pretty impressive cast. How did that happen?
The script. And I met with all of them. They trusted that I knew the material enough to bring it off the page and put it on a screen without stepping on their toes. But it certainly never would have happened if they didn't respond to the script.
How was it working with those guys?
It was great. They were all very, very, very different actors. Each of them taught me a ton. They were incredibly gracious, patient. They ivited me to get what I wanted and discouraged my shyness in asking for it. They really had little patience for my nervousness.
How are Caine and Walken different as actors?
Chris is the quintessential American actor, and Michael's the quintessential English. By that I mean, Michael makes very strong, specific choices, frequently of an external nature, that he will then inhabit. He will recreate that take after take after take. The same choices, the same idea, the same decisions are brought to life, freshly each take. Chris, on the other hand, is constantly exploring, emotionally and physically. Nothing is set in stone. No two takes are the same. If he feels like getting up and walking across the room in the middle of a take, that's what he's gonna do.
So how was your experience making your first movie in Albuquerque?
We had a great time. The Film Commission, from the governor on down, they encouraged our coming here. They didn't trick us. They provided what they said they would. Our crew was fantastic. The advantages were scenery, an amazing crew base and these extremely intelligent supports for filmmaking in the form of rebates and tax incentives. We benefited from all of them. We truly couldn't have made the movie if we weren't here.
What made you decide to shoot here?
It was creative first. Before I knew there was a New Mexico Film Commission, and that there was a crew base here, I wrote the script. The script, because it concerns the death wish of an archeologist to send his family out to an archeological dig, it seemed relevant to set the film in an environment that was familiar with archeology. So I would say that was the Southwest. Also, New Mexico is beautiful. With any road trip, when the car is driving past locations and you're finding yourself outside the car, you want the scenery to be beautiful. It's part of making a road movie. You also want to find as much varied scenery as possible. We were a low budget film. We didn't have a lot of time. We needed to find a lot of varied locations within an hour of a base. So Los Lunas became our base.
The recent tax rebates seem to have lured a lot of productions to our state, but there's a lingering question of how much they're lured by money and how much they're actually attracted to our infrastructure of cast, crew, facilities.
It's gotta be both. I think my producer, Elliot Lewitt, would understand the nuts and bolts a little bit better than I did, but I was clearly aware that there were both environmental advantages to shooting here and personality advantages to shooting here. The crew is very, very good. Basically, my producer and I decided a long time ago that we were going to do everything we could to stay out of Canada. On most low-budget films, especially first-time directors who just don't have anything to stand on, you're a beggar. You're begging the studio to give you every dime. Because there's no evidence you're going to give them a return on their investment. So we weren't in a position to negotiate for enough money to do the film in Los Angeles. It seemed likely very early on that we would have to go to Canada, which we didn't want. We wanted to stay in the United States. So what New Mexico has done is they've figured out a way to compete with Canada. It would be wonderful if they could compete with Canada without providing tax incentives and rebates. But we would have had to go to Canada if we couldn't find a place in the states that would give us the same economic advantages. But to say that we came for the money alone would be ridiculous. A lot of people involved in other productions have said this crew worked harder than any crew's ever worked. Certainly, I can't imagine anyone working harder than they worked. It was a tough shoot. Everyone threw themselves in. It was a level of both expertise and just decency that was very rewarding and gratifying.
You did your post-production (editing, sound, etc.) in L.A. There's also a lot of talk about getting that work here.
You've got to get it. Look, there's no reason this city doesn't have a better both production and post-production facility. You will benefit handsomely from making that happen. It is a very convenient place for people in Los Angeles to work. I can't wait to work here again.
Around the Bend opens in theaters on Friday.