INTERVIEW: 'Killing Them Softly' Director Andrew Dominik Discusses His American Horror Story

Andrew Dominik Killing Them Softly

James Gandolfini's character fascinated me. He seems to be a symbol of sort of our national loss of confidence.

Yeah, it's a mid-life crisis type movie, I guess.  In a way, it deals with loss of vitality, which is how I was feeling. The other thing I really loved about the story was all the masculine confusion in it. Everyone was talking about women. We never saw these women, but [the men] were all confused about them. Masculine ideals have become very confused in the modern world. Political correctness is not our friend.

Please do elaborate.

It seems like women don't want men to be men anymore. They want men to be women. [Laughs]   But they really don't want what they say they want. It's very weird. Do you know what I mean?

Don't get me started. Back to the movie.  I don't think I've ever had a more visceral reaction to violence in a film. I was practically in the fetal position during Ray Liotta's scenes. 

Groovy. I wanted it to be ugly.  The whole idea of the movie is that crime is a drag. The criminals aren't even paying attention to the crime. The mastermind is probably in debt and needs to pay off his bookie, and the other guys are thinking about how they're going to spend the money or the girls they'd rather be fucking. Crime is a job and it's boring. It's also unpleasant. If you've got to fire somebody or kill somebody or discipline somebody, it's not something you want to do. And that's the reason you get paid to do it.  So, if Brad's character is making a big deal about not wanting to kill people, I thought it was necessary to show how unpleasant killing people was.

Enter Ray Liotta. His performance in the beating scene is not something I'll soon forget. And he just told me that he's never been in a real fight in his life. 

Really?  See that's how confused men are.  How can you get to middle age without getting in a fight?  It wouldn't happen in Australia.

Why do you guys from Down Under understand violence so well?  

I don't know.  When I was a kid you had to fight.  So you did.

 You're doing a movie about Marilyn Monroe next, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' Blonde.  I feel the same way about Monroe as I do about the Kennedys — that pretty much everything you can say about them as cultural touchstones has been said. You obviously feel differently.

Well, I think people will be pretty shocked by the portrayal of Kennedy in the movie, which is about this orphan girl, Norma Jean, who is raised with a lie at the center of her self.  And it's about how she projects this drama onto the world around her and gradually becomes untethered.  So, I think it's going to explode a lot of people's assumptions about her.

How did you put together such a choice cast? Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy are excellent. And you've got Gandolfini, Pitt, Liotta and Sam Shepard. 

Well, the basic idea was to typecast it — to look at it like a film noir and just say, "I'm going to go for types."  So, you know, you've got the goofy looking skinny guy [McNairy], you got the sweaty Australian guy [Mendelsohn], and you can remember them.  And then you've got the tough guys.That part of Mickey was written for Jim [Gandolfini] because he's such a great actor, and there's some real sensitivity about him as a person. I could forgive Jim anything because he's so human.  And you need somebody like that for that role.  Ray Liotta is a great actor, too.  I don't understand why he never became like a movie star because I always found him so compelling on screen. And then Brad is, you know, Mr. Cool.

Does Pitt's star power end up working as an asset for you because this is not your typical tentpole picture?

I feel like you have to cast Brad in parts where he's extraordinary or exceptional in some way. I mean, it'd  be very difficult to cast Brad as an everyman because I don't think he is one. He was an everyman maybe 25, 30 years ago, but can he even remember what it's like to be normal?

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