Smart, sobering and quietly haunting, Blue Caprice recounts the horrors of the notorious 2002 Beltway sniper attacks. The poisoning and corruption of rational thought creates a chilling portrait of insanity and at its core, a toxic father-son relationship. The Iris sit down with Isiah Washington who stars in the film, ahead of its Australian release for a film which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival about a year ago… and he also the new series on The CW in the US, The 100.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. It’s a good time to talk about the film, particularly because this time a year ago it was premiering at Sundance.
Exactly a year ago, that is correct. Yes it made a huge impact a year ago and it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but yes over a year.
It’s incredible the life span a film like this has. Starts at Sundance, 12 months later we’re here talking about it’s Australian release.
Oh it’s fantastic, and I love Australia. I had a good time filming there at the Gold Coast when I was working on a Warner Brothers film many years ago, wait… now 14 years ago, actually no maybe back 11 years ago, yeah. Doing a film called Ghost Ship. I fell in love with Australia and ironically I’m working with an Australian named Eliza Taylor on a new series called ‘The 100’ for the CW network and she’s going to be fantastic in this television series. Back in Australia again, I love it.
When are we going to be seeing that series? Is it filming at the moment?
Yeah, it’s going to take the world by storm. Another Australian is in it too Bobby Morley. Anyway, it starts March 19th. (Which, coincidentally, is the date that Blue Caprice is released in Australia).
Fantastic. Really glad to hear you’re keeping your feet in the Australian waters so to speak.
*laughs* That’s right, that’s right. But anyway we went off topic here horribly!
Yes, lets talk about this remarkable film. I sat down to watch it last week. You know it’s a film I think a lot of people were surprised was being made. But once you see it, is a remarkable story and done with such class. What convinced you to be a part of this story, and I believe you were an executive producer also.
That is correct. I think the thing that convinced me the most was a wonderful message that Alexandre (Moors – director) wrote and sent to me via facebook that really not only told me but just let me know that although the film is set in this horrific backdrop of murder and mayhem and betrayal and all sorts of insanity we were truly making a film about a toxic father-son relationship. We were making a film about what happens when leadership is ambiguous and benign and corrupt and toxic. And how people who are following that leadership can be led astray and their lives are essentially destroyed on both ends of the spectrum. I can sit here a year later now and say proudly that we made a film that addresses all of those levels and all of those themes.
You certainly do, and the relationship between you and Tequan Richmond who plays Lee. What a remarkable actor from the first time you see him on the screen. What was the relationship with him like in real life performing throughout this film.
Well I knew right away that I was working with a fellow artist who had no pretense or other foresights, he was quite keen with his insight. He clearly knew that this was an opportunity to do something artistic. I didn’t get the sense that he came to this film thinking that he was going to get an Oscar nomination and win and spend the next 15 years you know making 10, 15 million dollars a picture. I know that wasn’t the reason he showed up, he was excited, he auditioned, was excited to work with me and it was then that I knew this was the beginning of a foundation of a wonderful, artistic career and ultimately he explained to me he wants to produce and direct, and so part of me was excited about the fact you know I’m an actor who’s also a producer and he was more turned on by those factors than wondering whether or not there was going to be immediate gratification professionally.
That is the thing that impressed me the most, is that he’s not a sprinter in this industry, he’s a marathoner and what I mean by that is he’s not in a hurry. He was very clear that he wants to do this for a very long time and he lives to do it for the next 70 years, well I’ll be long gone, but I’m just thrilled that’s he’s got a very clear perspective on his trajectory, a very clear perspective on his ability and he’s very humble and kind and ambitious in a healthy way. And you see that on the screen. You know what he had to do, some of the most seasoned actors could not pull that off. *laughs* With limited dialogue man. Whether the Hollywood Industry nominates him, this film, it doesn’t matter, we know what we have, what we did. And we know Blue Caprice will stand the test of time, even when we’re long gone.
And it has been incredibly well received by critics. The method in which it was released, I imagine has some drawbacks in terms of Academy nominations and things like that but at the end of the day, the people who are seeing this are loving the film and is that your general take on the response in the last twelve months.
Absolutely, you know whether it’s accurate or not, the one thing that is safe to say is that journalists take their business very seriously and the last thing that you guys want to do is get it wrong. And the last thing you guys want to do is talk about something you’re truly not inspired as journalists to write about. And in my experience over the last year and this conversation is just I am thrilled that I’m a part of something that gives you guys and girls an opportunity to do your job and feel confident that I don’t have to make this up to keep my job here because my editor is going to fire me if I don’t write about this film. *laughs*
You know I get the sense that you guys are like I can actually be the critic I always wanted to be and let the world know what they should be watching and what they shouldn’t be wasting their life and time for. *laughs* I feel confident over the last year by reading the reviews of journalists that I respect, of ones that I’ve known and ones that I’ve gotten to know and even thanked them on twitter, I was like thank you for writing what I actually said, thank you for not trying to spin it in a direction that makes you comfortable, thank you for actually telling the world and your audience about what you felt with this piece of art.
With the director, it was your first time working with Moors, but I read an interview where you compared him to Spike Lee who you’ve worked with in the earlier days of your career. Can you talk a little bit about working with Moors.
The thing with Spike is he doesn’t say very much, he’s very visual, so is Alexandre, he doesn’t talk a lot, he doesn’t over-direct you. He hires you because he has an instinct about you and he and Spike are very good at that, look at the talent that broke out from his films, Wesley Snipes, Roger Guenveur Smith, Rosie Perez, Samuel L. Jackson, myself, Denzel wasn’t a huge star until he did Mo’ Better Blues, the list just goes on and on and on. I spoke I think of a great composer of talent and that’s how I see Alexandre Moors, is that he’s a wonderful composer of talent, he’s only interested in working with actors he feels he doesn’t have to direct, in that he can tell by their work and his feelings I can bring them into my world and trust them.
That was the height of a compliment. I gotta tell you, I don’t know if you know this or not, but it wasn’t until the third week of shooting that I realised that Blue Caprice was Alexandre’s first feature. I agreed to do this film just from a conversation with him, he wanted me to read two books of research, Scared Silent by the actual John Allen Muhammad’s wife Mildred Muhammad and Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. And you know by the time I read the experience of what Mildred Muhammad went through, this gas light, this great mind…you can say a lot of mind things with her, extremely manipulative, and then getting through three quarters of Notes from Underground…I wanted to slit my wrists. *laughs* It was just so painful.
I was like okay okay Alexandre I got it, let’s just go and do the film. I just went it and trusted the vision of him, trusted the script which was very restrained, very minimal, and just trusted what I saw on his website which were apparently a bunch of shorts but I assumed they were trailers for his feature films. I didn’t realise he’d been doing shorts and videos all his entire career. His wife told me thank you so much for doing Alexandre’s first film and I didn’t say anything to her but I walked quietly and took the producer aside and said “man what the fuck is this the guys first film” *laughs*. And as I was watching him holding the camera doing one of these shots looking like James Cameron, this guy, he’s no different from Jimmy Cameron or Steven Spielberg or Spike Lee. He’s a genius. And he’s totally confident in what he wants this camera to do. And I was just thoroughly impressed by this then and I’m still impressed by it now. I’m proud he’s getting all the creative attention he’s gotten. I’m just thrilled to the gill that this film is still getting attention around the world.
Most definitely, and you know under less talented hands a film like this can go a very different direction.
You got it, you got it, you are absolutely right. Right at the start it was 50% I said to myself that this guy can get it right, 50% chance he could get it wrong. I feel the same starring with Australia’s Bob Morley and Eliza Taylor who are powerhouses in this new TV series, it opens March 19 on the CW network. The world is going to be impacted by this work by the creator Jason Rothenberg. I feel the same way about a lot of projects that I’m working on, I’m looking for things that are relevant, that are passionate and artistic and saying something without hitting you in the nose with a statement but that allow you to think for yourself and encourage critical analysis, critical thinking and hopefully critical dialogue. That’s the kind of work I found doing Blue Caprice and it has inspired me to find other things to produce, or collaborate or jobs as an actor. So I’m very excited as to where Blue Caprice is still heading in the coming years.
Well I hope more people see this film and we’re looking forward to seeing its release here in Australia. I really appreciate your time today and best of luck with everything to come and with the new series on the CW.
Thank you very much. I’m surrounded by great, young Australians. *laughs*
Eagle Entertainment releases Blue Caprice, director Alexandre Moors’ haunting portrait of the Washington DC snipers, on Blu-ray and DVD in Australia on March 19th, 2014.
TRANSCRIPT BY LAUREN BAXTER