The Rebel Rules: Brit Filmmaker John Maybury Brings His New Queer Edge to an Exclusive Talk on Directing Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley in the Creepy-Cool New Thriller the Jacket

By Stockwell, Anne | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), March 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Rebel Rules: Brit Filmmaker John Maybury Brings His New Queer Edge to an Exclusive Talk on Directing Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley in the Creepy-Cool New Thriller the Jacket


Stockwell, Anne, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


It's one of the more panic-inducing screen sequences in memory: In a hospital morgue, a mental patient is trussed in a straitjacket and locked away in the airless dark of a body storage drawer. He screams for help. But then the visions come ... The film is The Jacket, which just hit theaters; the man in the morgue drawer is Jack Starks (Adrien Brody), a Gulf War veteran dumped in a V.A. psych ward with a sadistic doctor.

In charge of the chills is director John Maybury, an iconoclastic queer British artist and filmmaker who's basically unknown in the States except to those who saw Love Is the Devil, Maybury's riveting 1998 film biography of the brilliant and decidedly kinky gay painter Francis Bacon.

Now, under the aegis of Section 8, the production banner of Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, Maybury makes his Hollywood debut--his queer continental sensibilities intact. He sat down with The Advocate hours before The Jacket's world premiere.

People are already talking about The Jacket.

I'm very proud of it. I love the film, and I don't give a shit what anyone else thinks. I set out to do something, and I did it.

I love that. Talking about the film, during the first scene of Adrien Brody in that box, I thought I'd have to leave the theater.

Funnily enough, at the preview I was only allowed to invite two friends. The two friends walked out after five minutes, and had they not, it would have been the first preview in Warner's history to have no walkouts. After that initial claustrophobia, though, once Jack wants to get in there to have his experiences, you want to go with him.

During his sessions in the box, Jack starts to hallucinate--and then fall in love with a mysterious young woman played by Keira Knightley. Famously, the rumor is that you didn't want Keira for the part.

Those rumors were true. I'd seen Bend It Like Beckham and I'd seen Pirates of the Caribbean, and I mean, Keira's a beautiful girl, but I was like, if this kid can't do an American accent, this film's down the dumper. When she came to meet me she'd had food poisoning, so she looked fabulous. And I was very blunt. I said, "I've met amazing American actresses. I don't want you for this; why should I have you?" She said, "If I don't do this, I'm going to be in corsets for the next 20 years." And I thought, That's a smart thing for this kid to say.

How did you get those groat shots in the box?

My production designer, who is brilliant, constructed variations--there was, obviously, the wall of morgue drawers, which Adrien actually did go in. But we also built sections so we could film sideways, we could film down. It was an extreme experience for Adrien, because he was bound in this weird straitjacket.

Was there a limited time he could stay in there?

No. He was amazing. He gave me what I needed. I mean, it was an enormously demanding role for him. What I loved about Adrien in this role was, he has a kind of young Al Pachlo quality about him, kind of a boy from the Bronx, but also there's a sort of Modigliani elegance to him.

This movie is a far cry from Love Is the Devil, but I certainly see similarities in technique.

It's such a long time since Love Is the Devil--1997--I kind of wanted to remind anybody who might have seen that that this was the same guy.... The color pattern, reflections on metal, little flourishes, things I love to see that have existed tight back to my Super 8 work and my kind of freaky weird queer cinema ... what was great was to impose that on a Hollywood movie.

When Steven Soderbergh called, did he have a script in mind?

After Love Is the Devil, I had lots of scripts sent to me from the States, and usually by about page 5, I'd throw them across the room. And then Steven sent me the screenplay of The Jacket, and I actually read it through from cover to cover, which was a breakthrough. …

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