– . – Writer – Oren Moverman
A Personal Message
Having penned screenplays for the likes of Jesus’ Son (1999), I’m Not There (2007) and Married Life (2007), Oren Moverman is making his directorial debut with The Messenger. He also co-wrote this tale of an American casualty notification officer who falls for the widow of a fallen comrade and, as he explains, story remains at the heart of his craft.
The Messenger has an interesting backstory. Can you tell us about that?
Alessandro Camon and I wrote the script, and I got it to Sydney Pollack, who wanted to develop it as a love story. But we worked on it for a while and came to an agreement that it wasn’t going to work as a love story, so Sydney dropped out in a very nice way. Roger Michell came on board and we worked with him. We developed the script for him: more about the relationship, the friendship, between the two men. And then Roger had to go off and do another movie and there was a writers’ strike. Then Ben Affleck directed his first film [Gone Baby Gone], and was looking at this as a possibility to direct, and ultimately decided not to, and I was offered the job. I was the last man standing!
Do you think there has been an attempt to hide this side of the story, because until 2009 the Pentagon banned the publication of photographs of coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base?
Absolutely; it wasn’t part of the dialogue. You also have to remember in the States it’s a volunteer army, so in a way it wasn’t like the public was crying out for these images. What’s happening now, thankfully, is that this is becoming part of the conversation.
Was your decision to tell this story political, given that it was a political choice by the Bush Snr administration to impose the ban?
Every movie is political by definition—the fact that a movie is a product of a financial structure makes it political immediately—but this movie is not about politics, because that would have been the easy way in, and probably the thing that would finish it off. Once you go into politics, and you go into arguments, you go into emotions, and emotions take you outside of rational conversation when it comes to facts, and then you can dismiss the other side. We wanted a movie that could actually be very gentle and pull people into a dialogue.