Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger came to the San Sebastian Film Festival on Saturday to support the world premiere of Neil Jordan’s “Marlowe,” closing the festival tonight.
Jordan and William Monahan’s adaptation of John Banville’s novel “The Black-Eyed Blonde” centers on Raymond Chandler’s famed detective Philip Marlowe and, like Chandler’s books, is set in 1930s Los Angeles.
Jordan said it was confusing to call it a film noir. “First of all, it was shot in color,” he said.
Even though it takes place in the past, it is a futuristic film that formed its point of reference for the look of this one.
“To make a movie like this, you have to reinvent the image. The reference I chose was ‘Blade Runner’, which is set in LA in the future. I’ve made a movie in the past that’s set in LA, but somehow it’s a science fiction movie. […] It was a good reference for the designers and the camera team.”
The film was largely shot in the hills of Barcelona, which, according to Neeson, who plays Marlowe, reminded him of LA.
“I used to live in Laurel Canyon and where we filmed in Barcelona was a replica for Laurel Canyon,” he said.
The film started with a book that had not yet been published at the time.
“The book was written by a good friend of mine,” Jordan said. “We bought the rights to the book and William Monahan wrote a great script, but I thought there wasn’t enough complexity in the script and said I could try it. We ended up with the script we have.”
He chose his cast well.
“I was desperate to work with Jessica Lange,” he said. “The thought of Jessica Lange playing a retired screen goddess was amazing. Luckily, she agreed to play the part.”
Neeson referred to past actors who have played the part of Marlowe when asked about preparing for the part.
“There have been some extraordinary actors like Bogart or Elliott Gould in Robert Altman’s ‘The Long Goodbye’ was great,” he said. “And of course Robert Mitchum played him in the early 1970s (‘Farewell My Lovely’). I am an avid reader, but I had never read Raymond Chandler. Then I devoured it all on my best friend Kindle. But I’ve never been put off by it. I’ve worked with Neil four times. I knew Neil would put a certain quirky twist on it and cast it superbly, which he did. Diane and I starred together in a movie we shot in Berlin 12 years ago. Neil got a great cast together. That was intimidating.”
For Kruger, the chance to star in the film was a rare opportunity.
“We can’t play these kinds of characters often or make these kinds of movies,” she said. “I jumped on a Zoom with Neil. I knew he would do something classic, but with a twist. We shot in Barcelona, which was great.”
What attracted Jordan to this story?
“It’s not so much the genre,” he said. “It’s the whole landscape of the film. I thought if I could make a movie about a Marlowe being hired by a beautiful woman to find her lover, and what he doesn’t know is that it’s to kill him, well I haven’t seen that.”
The LA he filmed is gone, even though Chandler’s legacy remains.
He added: “We made up our period in Los Angeles. We had to invent an imaginary city, because when you go to LA, there’s nothing left of that period. They destroyed it.”
The film is produced by Alan Moloney, Gary Levinsohn, Mark Fasano, Billy Hines, Philip Kim and Patrick Hibler. It is a co-production between Parallel Films, Hills Productions and Davis Films, with support from Screen Ireland. Sur Film provided production services in Barcelona.