Interview

Interview

Stealing Organs & Extreme Violence in 'Repo Men' with Forest Whitaker & Jude Law

In Repo Men, Jude Law and Forest Whitaker take a turn as ex-soldiers who snag jobs reclaiming organs. While the premise sounds more than gruesome -- and plenty of blood and tears are spilled -- Whitaker and Law explained just how important the horror factor was in conveying the story of a dystopic future where best friends are forced to be enemies.

Check out their comments below, including descriptions of the scenes that didn't make it in the final cut, and as with all of our Repo Men coverage, beware of spoilers along the way.

The violence is so over-the-top that it's almost ballet by the end. Did you sit there and say, while you were shooting it, "This is ridiculous and over the top" and fight for less or did you say, "The hell with it. Let's go whole-hog and have some fun."

Jude Law: The script was very descriptive in the violence. It was clear when you read it that it was going to be extreme. I constantly thought, "Gosh, how much of this are they going to get away with?" But I like -- again, really that's a question more for [Director] Miguel Sapochnik  than us because Miguel really fought for it. I hope I answer your question directly, but I'm going to be more sort of impressionistic about it. I think the idea of these two men in a society that is desensitized to violence, it's important that the theme of violence and the graphic nature of the violence be very real initially and then as the journey of the film broadens, especially towards the end, when it becomes almost unreal this level of violence, the grotesque use of the body or dissemination of the body builds you suddenly start to realize that you've been so sort of brought into the world that you continue to believe in it. And we hoped, I hoped, that it was a film that would make you close your eyes because what worries me more is the people, especially the young people, going to see the movies where they're just watching that sort of stuff and it doesn't do anything to them. And I hope this one is shocking because it should be. Violence is shocking. That was our aim actually.

Forest Whitaker: That's part of the dilemma in your character too. Part of what he faces is even the structure of violence and what it means.

Jude Law: He doesn't think twice about it.

Forest Whitaker: And when is it personal? What does it mean?

Jude Law: How far do we go before it's a shock seeing someone getting cut open?

Forest, did you have to hide your director hat on this one to do that violence? Because I don't know if that's something you would have gone with if you were directing.

Forest Whitaker: I think that we were trying -- the whole thing is to create a universe, and a world, which I think every movie -- a great movie is steeped in its own universe and world with its own rules and stuff. And I think that, what he did, I mean I can't say I would do it that way, but I think what he did [is] created a universe that allowed you to fall into it and allows you to believe and trust in what we're doing. And we were convicted to those motivations, that we would do anything, go as far as we needed to to decide the truth of whatever this universe was.

Jude Law: What's important too, I mean, one of the scenes I found most important and beautiful was when Beth and Remy repossess each other and I thought that to get that far there had to be an embrace of the violence in a way, that two people coming together physically like that could almost be like lovemaking but instead it was sharing something, sharing agony rather than sharing pleasure.

Forest Whitaker: I think there's a big leap there too, to do things that broadly, to go so far out to that sort of Clockwork-Orangey, sort of Monty-Pythony kind of thing. I mean, 'cause you have the chance of falling on your face.

Jude Law: Clockwork Orange was a big influence I think.

Do you think that your character Jake is happy in the end? Do you imagine him home with a sort of brain-dead, zombie Remy sitting on the couch?

Jude Law: What, me in the corner? [Laughs]

You know, because in the end Jake really kind of saved the friendship.

Forest Whitaker: You know, I always kind of thought that he was happiest with him. And caring for him now will be part of the relationship -- that feels good to him. I think that there's something a little twisted in that part of Jake. Now he can control it. Now [Remy] can't say he's going to go away.

Jude Law: I mean that's a very contemporary theme too, which is as long as there are no questions asked then everyone's all right. You can keep the lie up. If you don't question the lie then you can pretend that everything's all right.

For both of you guys, since you've done so many genre films over the course of your careers: what do you enjoy about sci-fi/fantasy/horror stuff? And do you take it as seriously as you do Hamlet, or any other type of serious drama?

Forest Whitaker: I didn't see it -- I mean [I see it] as a character, as a really interesting script, as working with someone really talented, as something else new. I'm always trying to challenge myself to do and try to do and hopefully do something great. That's the only way I approach everything whether it's sci-fi or comedy or whatever it might be.

Jude Law: You know it's still a very, serious theme to it. It still required a lot of work and attention and even the physical side, I mean I know, the physical elements of a film, the action if you want to call it that or the violence, is considered sort of thrill-seeking or what have you, but to make that kind of stuff requires -- especially when it's grounded in reality, it's not just sort of gratuitous, you know what I mean? It required a hell of a lot of work. And I think we both -- yeah, again, I follow what Forest said, it's just, it's fun to try new things. I certainly take it seriously. I take everything seriously. Too seriously.

Repossession is such a devastating issue. Do you know anyone -- have you ever gone through this process?

Forest Whitaker: Oh yeah, I've known friends who've had their cars repossessed.

Jude Law: Yeah.

Forest Whitaker: I've known people who've had homes taken.

Jude Law: [To Forest] You said something really interesting before though, which to take it further, you know you lose your home -- well, you should say it -- but you know, you were talking how people, you can lose belongings, you lose your car, your lose your job, you lose your home, but this idea of taking it further which is like, "Well, what do I own now? I am myself, I am me." And the idea that they own you too, so now they've come to take you to steal it -- we own everything.

Forest Whitaker: That emotional question is kind of there too, it's like a metaphor because when you lose something, when someone takes away everything you have -- your house, your home, everything -- and then, there is a part of yourself that feels lost. Because the emotional loss is just so powerful.

You said a lot of stuff was cut; what was cut that was about your characters?

Jude Law: Not a whole lot but there were little bits -- our first repo, that was hilarious. That was my favorite scene!

Forest Whitaker: It was at Christmas!

Jude Law: It was Christmas. We were filming in Toronto and we had this -- because the script kept on chopping and changing, we'd done a lot of stuff in the military which was trimmed down to us in the tank. But then there was this one scene which was us in the bar just saying, "What do we do? We don't even know what to do with ourselves." And then we see an ad for the repo and then you see us being trained by the repo men. And then it just snowed in Toronto and there was this little house covered in lovely Santa lights and we just covered each other in blood, and we come out laughing hysterically having just done our first repo and we look at each other and then we start laughing again and we walk down the street.

Forest Whitaker: It was insane!

Jude Law: Little bits! Little bits that just showed this bond build over time. Layers and layers and layers of this brotherhood.

Is there any chance for you guys to go back and do a backstory or in the future Forest becomes the CEO of The Union?

Jude Law: I think there's still a way of saving Remy, as well. He's not all there but he's there.

Forest Whitaker: Yeah, he is.

Jude Law: [To Forest] I can come visit you.

Forest Whitaker: I can forage man, I can get you some more body parts.

Jude Law: Yeah, yeah! [Laughs] But at what cost?

With the subject matter and the removal of the organs being a big part of the characters, I was wondering if you did any research.

Jude Law: I worked with a surgeon in London, first of all. I bought a side of a pig because pig flesh is very like human flesh and he taught me how to cut through that with scalpels. And then we worked with a guy in Toronto.

Forest Whitaker: Yeah, we got to see the surgeon do his work and stuff. And I had seen some surgery before but for my character though, he's not a neat kind of guy. He's much more into retrieval. So I got to watch that but I kind of discarded that.

Have you guys read the book?

Jude Law: I did. This is like a cousin to the book, I would say.

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