“That you can’t beat out of them with a tire iron”

Features, FILM, Film Festivals, Interviews
img_gonegirl-tylerperryGone Girl’s Tyler Perry. Plus, a New York Film Festival Top Five.

Whether or not Gone Girl’s take on gender is controversial—“The idea that every portrait of a woman should be an ideal woman, meant to stand for all of womanhood, is an enemy of art,” Maureen Dowd writes— Tyler Perry is damn memorable as Nick Dunne’s lawyer Tanner Bolt.

The smooth black actor and director didn’t know much about Gillian Flynn’s runaway book, he tells press before the film’s World Premiere at the New York Film Festival. “I’m just a guy who is always in my own world, in my own head not really paying attention to a lot of things. But when I got the call from David I thought, ‘wow, this is interesting’, and then when I read the script I was blown away, and I said, ‘what can I bring to this?’ And if he would give me this opportunity, which he did, I just wanted to do my absolute best. The character, to me, was so rich, and I just thought, ‘ease’. This was David’s word to me every day: ‘Just ease. He’s all about ease. He’s got it all together’. So that’s what was interesting to me and completely different too.”

Working with David Fincher was the greatest learning experience he could have had, he says. “I couldn’t even imagine learning more in any other place, from any other director. Just the level of brilliance, and I say this a lot, about his eye, he sees. People say ‘he does a lot of takes’ but what I realised very early on is that he is seeing everything at once. I don’t think he sees like regular humans, I think he sees everything at once and he’s trying to paint this perfect tableau and if one thing is out of place it’s got to be redone, and the level of brilliance and genius that it takes to make that happen was so impressive to me and I walked away hopeful that one day I’ll do better in my own films.”

This writer hopes the director of Medea, Peeples, and Temptation will be treated more respectfully as a serious actor now. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike’s performances and roles (and Neil Patrick Harris’s appointment as Oscars host) have understandably bogarted most of Gone Girl’s coverage, but Perry’s achievement deserves attention.

The notoriously demanding Fincher appears visibly impressed with Perry. “I met Tyler and I was really taken with the fact that he was so calm and calming, and he has an incredible apparatus for making you feel like you’re heard. I didn’t want Tanner to be somebody who projected this idea that ‘you’re done, now I’m taking over’. It needed to be somebody who’s going, ‘I hear you, I see you, I understand your pain, now you really need to step in front of a truck and that’s going to be the best thing’.”

Fincher says Perry was essential for Gone Girl. “You have to imagine the dynamic that you want. It’s like putting together a team; you have room for point guard, you want a power forward, you’re trying to figure out how they’re going to work together. There’s a gut instinct level to it, but you also look at things that they naturally have, that you can’t beat out of them with a tire iron.”

A NYFF 2014 Top Five

  • Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, USA)
  • Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, USA)
  • Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania)
  • Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France)
  • Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh, UK)
Thanks to Thomas Phillips for transcription assistance on this article.
Filed under: Features, FILM, Film Festivals, Interviews

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Alexander Bisley is an editor-at-large who has contributed in-depth interviews and more to The Lumière Reader since 2004. He’s written extensively on culture (and sport) for all of New Zealand’s leading outlets, and also makes his living freelancing for international publications including The Guardian, Slate, and The AV Club. He’s published by The Independent, BBC, Vice, The Sydney Morning Herald, Playboy, and Slate France, and has been paid once by The New Yorker.