Brian De Palma has had an up-and-down career; crafting classics (Scarface), smashes (Mission: Impossible), and stinkers (The Bonfire Of The Vanities). His latest film, Passion, is a stylised remake with Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as a viperish boss and her resentful protégé getting Sapphic and savage...
What was the appeal of Passion?
The producer of the original film is an admirer of my work and I saw all kinds of possibilities. I thought I could make it more sexy, more suspenseful and more mysterious by not revealing who the killer was halfway through the movie.
The film revisits motifs you’ve explored before: masks, twins, showers...
You don’t think about that consciously. When you read this script or you look at the [original] movie, you immediately get visual ideas to tell the story. You don’t say, “Oh, let’s use that series of shots I used in Dressed To Kill.”
How did you cast Noomi and Rachel?
Luck. I happened to run into another director who showed me Noomi’s Swedish movies; I said, “This is an interesting and exciting woman.” Rachel happens to be represented by the same manager. I’m sure they sat down and said, “This would be fun.”
Did they ramp up the lesbian dynamic?
Absolutely. They toyed with that bold eroticism on the set. They wanted to take it even further. They were not afraid of nudity or eroticism.
Your stylised depictions of violence were controversial earlier in your career. Did you enjoy the notoriety?
You don’t realise when you put a movie out. The critical establishment comes in with all kind of preconceptions about ‘a Brian De Palma film’ – exploiting women, violence, Hitchcockian... all the usual catchphrases. An audience, and myself, tend to not think about that stuff at all. They just watch the movie.
Passion isn’t as explicitly violent as your earlier films. Has your attitude towards screen violence softened?
No. If I had a violent subject like Scarface today, it would still be that violent.
When you look back over your career, what are you most proud of?
I’ve made all kinds of films in all kinds of genres at all kinds of budgets, and all you can think about is the ones that last. They’re the ones that people talk to you about all the time, whether it’s Scarface or Carrie or Carlito’s Way. They’re the films I’ll be remembered by.
What do you think about Carrie being remade? Are you a tiny bit annoyed?
Not at all. I mean, I remade Scarface [Howard Hawks made the 1932 version]. If the material is good, and it can be made in a different take for a different generation, why not?
Are there any passion projects you wish you’d been able to make?
I wrote a couple more scripts in the style of Redacted that were very political, about our involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I couldn’t get them financed.
What are you working on now?
I’ve been working on an old William Goldman script for a movie called Heat that was made with Burt Reynolds in the ’70s [actually 1986]. It’s an enforcer movie set in a casino town, and I’ve been adapting it to shoot in France. Jason Statham wants to play the lead.
Some directors would be resting on their laurels in their seventies, but at 72 you keep plugging away...
As long as I have ideas, I’ll keep making movies. When you stop getting ideas is when you should hang it up, but I’m not there yet.