Duncan Jones on ‘Moon’ & Double-Billing Sam Rockwell

The Tribeca Film Festival is over, and Duncan Jones is one happy dude. His directorial debut Moon — a lonely sci-fi spookfest starring Sam Rockwell — was extremely well received and is riding a lunar module of buzz all the way to its June 12 release date. Jones — born Zowie Bowie to some Brit named David — celebrated his film’s premiere last week at new Meatpacking catacomb Bar 675 (at a Heineken and Stoli-sponsored event), where he talked about releasing an indie in sea of blockbusters, the genius of Sam Rockwell, and knowing thyself.

Where did the idea for the film come from? I wanted to work with Sam desperately, and I’d given him another script, and it was something that he was really interested in. But he wanted to play the lead role, and I wanted him to play the villain, so we actually met up here in New York to try and convince each other, and that didn’t work out. But we got on very well, and I knew that I wanted to work with him on my first film, so I said, “Look, what kind of films do you want to make?” And we started talking about science fiction and playing blue-collar characters, and it sort of just worked out that I wanted to write a script for it, so I wrote a blue collar Sam.

Did your father have any influence on the film’s sci-fi motif? No, not really. I was a student in philosophy for a long time; I find that a lot of filmmakers did philosophy. I was in the college of Wooster in Ohio for four years as an undergrad, and then I did three years of PhD track at Vanderbilt. What was it like making a science fiction film on an indie film budget? You don’t see that very often. Well, there’s a reason you don’t see it — because it’s so hard. We had about $5 million, which is a lot for an independent film.

What were the limitations other than budget? Well there was a whole series of approaches that we could’ve taken for the lunar landscape, and the one that we found most cost-effective — and I think gave us the most unique look — was to use model miniatures, the same techniques they used back in the late 70s and early 80s in films like Aliens.

What is the ethical dilemma that your film investigates? If you met yourself in person, would you necessarily like yourself, or would you only see the faults?

Are you talking about interacting with your own consciousness? Well, not even consciousness — just in a simple way. What are you actually like as a person to have to deal with, if you had to experience yourself? The question is, would you like yourself?

What was it about Sam that attracted you? I just think he’s a phenomenal actor, every time I’ve seen him in anything. Obviously he’s played the lead in a few films — I loved him in Confession of a Dangerous Mind — but then whenever he’s been a supporting actor, he just steals scenes. He’s got so much charisma and so much energy, and he seems so honest. I’m trying to find some film award somewhere willing to put him up for best actor and best supporting actor — that’s my plan.

Is it daunting to release a film in the middle of summer? At first I was like, “are you crazy?” There are all these massive films coming out, but I guess it kind of makes sense. I don’t know about other people, but I don’t just say, “That’s the film I’m going to see this summer.” I see a lot of films, I see more than one film, and if I want to see Star Trek, I might also want to see something that’s a very different take on sci-fi. I think we’re a good alternative for the big summer blockbusters.

What summer films are you most looking forward to? James Cameron’s Avatar … can’t wait to see that, whenever it comes out. Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, because anything Gillian does is worth watching, even if it doesn’t always work. I want to see Inglorious Basterds.

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