Warner Bros’ year-end release Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close faced a challenge of being too late and too early — simultaneously. Its late December release and tight post-production schedule meant it wasn’t out in time for many year-end best-of lists, and as a result other films have taken the spotlight during the past month on the awards circuit. At the same time, for some it might be too early for a film that explores the horrors of the 9/11 tragedy. Still, the drama starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn and Max von Sydow did show up on the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Best Picture nominees list. (Warner Bros is promoting von Sydow’s performance with a new featurette that includes new sound bites, behind-the-scenes footage and clips; see it below). Bullock, von Sydow and Horn sat down with Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond for an AwardsLine Q&A following the first industry screening of the film in early December.
On what drew Sandra Bullock to this 9/11 themed feature:
BULLOCK: The way the story was written through Thomas (Horn’s) character Oskar’s eyes, really inspired me, because it allowed you to feel things as an innocent, rather than as an adult. Knowing everything that we knew about the (9/11) events and how much pain it caused everyone and this child’s desire just to understand, “Why?” And there is no answer. It also shows a healing — how it bonded people together that you would never expect to come together. I was in New York that day and you saw every person reaching out to someone else. … There is a great line that Oskar has: “We’re all bonded by loss. If you have a good life, you’re going to experience loss. It connects us all. It makes us all the same.” There’s a healing in that which says, “You’re not alone. You’re not different.”
Horn on how he prepared for his first acting role:
HORN: Every time I had to do an emotional scene, I would go into a room and try to put myself where the character was emotionally. … Sometimes I was in there for five, 10, 15, 20, even 30 minutes. … (Oskar) was tested for Asperger’s Syndrome, but it was not confirmed. He does have some presentations of Aspergers; like he’s obsessed with math and systems and stuff like that, and he has real problems relating to people, especially outside of his family. (When 9/11 occurred) I wasn’t even 4 years old. … I tried my best to represent what a person who had gone through severe trauma like this might feel.
Von Sydow on playing a mute:
VON SYDOW: When you reach a certain age, the parts offered aren’t that interesting. Many of them are grandfathers who are ill and die on page 25. But this grandfather was extraordinary; one who doesn’t speak. … In the novel you learn that he was young in Germany during the war and he was in Dresden when the city was bombed. … And that was the shock that made the grandpa shut up for his lifetime. … (The moment when Oskar shares the final message from his father before his death) was a very moving scene because three generations suddenly are together; one is dead and gone, but he speaks through the machine. But it is when (my character), the secret grandfather, hears his son’s voice for the first time; recorded just moments before the son dies, a son he has never seen, and it is in the company of the grandson who doesn’t know that he is with his grandfather — there were many levels of complicated emotion.
The altruistic acting of Tom Hanks:
BULLOCK: Anyone who has been given the gift of being opposite an actor who gives and gives, it just makes you better. And he is present, and he is so selfless in what he will give with his time. Like the [office] scene when I get the call that he is in the building. Normally that would be a day where I would be on the phone with a pre-recorded set of lines from Tom. But that day, Tom Hanks showed up at this non-descript office building in New York City on a Saturday and sat in a room and did every single off camera call for 13 hours; changed his performance each and every time so that I had something different to work off of.
The intensity of the scene when Oskar says he wishes his mother died in the 9/11 attacks:
BULLOCK: It felt like the scene went on for days because it had so many levels. We started in the bedroom, had to make our way down to the hallway, had a crescendo in the kitchen and then had to come back into the bedroom. … When (Thomas and I) returned to the bedroom; I was having such a hard time. Every actor knows you have those moments where you’re dry; you’re just not hitting those notes and you are just so down on yourself. I couldn’t figure out why it was that the scene didn’t feel as alive as it (did). … I said to the crew, “Whoever can tell me what it was that changed the dynamic to help fix this scene, a $100 to the person who can figure it out.” Our cinematographer Chris (Menges) said, “I moved the camera in.” The camera was always sort of a voyeur … and he said, “Let me move the camera back.” And he moved it just outside the door and that’s when the scene worked.