An Intimate 'Place,' Inspired By Fatherhood

The Place Beyond The Pines is a crime drama follow-up to the film Blue Valentine. Host Rachel Martin talks with co-writer and director Derek Cianfrance about the new movie.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Taking the drama from the small screen to the silver screen and a new movie filled with all kinds of ambition.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as character) If you ride like lightning, you're gonna crash like thunder.

MARTIN: "The Place Beyond the Pines" is a new film that tells three stories - one after another. First, there's the story of Luke, played by Ryan Gosling. He's a motorcycle stunt driver for a traveling carnival. And the movie opens when Luke tries to convince the mother of his child to run away with him.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES")

RYAN GOSLING: (as Luke) You want a house? I'll get you a house. We'll get out of here. I got that trailer. I'll get a truck. We'll hit the road.

MARTIN: Then there's the story of Avery, a cop played by Bradley Cooper, whose life collides with Luke's...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES")

BRADLEY COOPER: (as Avery) 104, I got a visual on a motorcycle...

MARTIN: ...in one violent moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES")

GOSLING: (as Luke) Where are you from?

COOPER: (as Avery) Philly.

MARTIN: Finally, a third chapter that tells the story of the next generation, Luke and Avery's sons. Derek Cianfrance co-wrote and directed the movie. His last film was "Blue Valentine," which also tackled a heavy family story. Cianfrance told me it's a theme rich with emotional possibility.

DEREK CIANFRANCE: It's a very intimate place inside the house, inside family, and I feel like the cinema is the same place. I feel like in a movie theater, you sit down in a dark room and you share these really private, intimate secrets up on the screen with characters. So, to me, it's like a nice marriage.

MARTIN: And you yourself are a dad, right?

CIANFRANCE: I am a dad, yeah. I have two boys. One's going to be about nine in a couple of weeks and the other one is five. And I wrote this movie from, you know, the experience of being a father.

MARTIN: Although the relationships depicted in the film, complicated to say the least, bordering on abusive almost.

CIANFRANCE: Yeah. You know, I have to say, when I was a kid growing up in Colorado in the suburbs of Lakewood, Colorado, I used to always find it strange that there were all these smiling family pictures in my house. You know, the Olan Mills portraits.

MARTIN: Oh my gosh, we got those too - Olan Mills.

CIANFRANCE: Olan Mills, yes. I always thought they were so strange. I mean, I grew up in a great house. My parents were awesome, but it wasn't like we were sitting around smiling all the time. And I felt it so false to me that we would just be smiling for these pictures. And so as a kid, I used to always try to take pictures of people fighting. I have an early photograph of my brother in tears and my mom screaming at him. And you can tell how young I was 'cause you can see the ceiling in the picture, you know what I mean, from that perspective. But I always was interested in the struggle. You know, I thought love and relationships were so much more than just about just happy moments. And so that's what basically been doing that in my films, trying to make true home movies, basically.

MARTIN: So, talk a little bit about the film itself and the stories. You made essentially, I would imagine, a bold decision with the structure of this film because in some ways it does feel like three discreet stories put together to make a whole. Why did you decide to do that?

CIANFRANCE: Twenty years ago, I had seen Abel Gance's "Napoleon" when I was in film school. And I loved everything about the movie. The climactic battle in that movie was a three-screen triptych. And I always dreamed for 20 years that I would make a triptych movie somehow. I didn't know what form it was going to take but I just had this idea to do a triptych. And then my wife was pregnant in 2007 with our second son, Cody, and I was thinking about legacy. I was thinking about everything that I was born with and everything that I was going to pass onto him. And I just really, more than anything, wanted him to be born clean. You know, I grew up Catholic so I'm full of guilt and I feel like I'm a sinner. And I didn't want...

MARTIN: Truly?

CIANFRANCE: Oh, yes.

MARTIN: You're not just being tongue-in-cheek about that?

CIANFRANCE: No. That Catholic guilt is definitely inside me and I wrestle with it all the time. And I have my son coming out, and I wanted them to not have any of my craziness. You know, I didn't want them to have my mistakes. I wanted them to just be born and to carve his own path in life. All of the sudden, I had a movie that fit inside that triptych structure and I could make a movie about legacy and about lineage and about this fire that gets passed between generations.

MARTIN: So, you've got some big names in this movie. We mentioned Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. Also, Eva Mendes. I mean, these are very beautiful people. Let's just say that.

CIANFRANCE: Yes, they are.

MARTIN: Some of, you know, some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. The roles they're playing are very raw and unglamorous. Was that challenging at all to transform them to the point that the audience forgets they're watching such big stars?

CIANFRANCE: We're writing characters that are ordinary, people that you wouldn't necessarily have a movie about. But I'm casting movie stars in those roles. So, I'm trying to collide the ordinary with the extraordinary. You know, these movie stars are amazing people and I want them to strip off the perfection.

MARTIN: Although, we should point out, it does take some work to make Ryan Gosling look unattractive. I mean, you have to put a tattoo on the guy's face.

CIANFRANCE: I did not put that tattoo.

MARTIN: How did it get there?

CIANFRANCE: Well, I write to a point, you know. I wrote 37 drafts of the "Pines" script, but by the time I get on set, honestly, I'm so sick of my words, and now I have great actors, you know, these charismatic, magical people who can do amazing things that I want them to own it. So, you know, Ryan and I had had experience on "Blue Valentine." And he called me about six months before we started shooting "Pines." And he said, hey, D, how about the most tattoos in movie history? I was like, OK. You want some tattoos, huh? And he says, yeah, and I want to get a face tattoo. And I was like really? A face tattoo? And he says, yeah, face tattoos are the coolest. And he says and this one's going to be a dagger and it's going to be dripping blood. He showed up on the first day and he had this temporary tattoo on his face and we were shooting, you know, the first day and we're at lunchtime and there's something bothering him. And he was like, hey, D, can I talk to you? And I said, yeah, what's going on? And he said I think I went too far with the face tattoo. And I said, well, that's what happens when you get a face tattoo - you regret it, you know? And he's like, yeah, I know, and I'm regretting it right now. Do you think we can, you know, take it off and, like, reshoot that stuff? It wasn't that much stuff we shot this morning. And I was like absolutely not. This movie is about consequence and now you have to live with your choices.

MARTIN: Derek Cianfrance co-wrote and directed the new movie "The Place Beyond the Pines." He joined us from our studios in New York. Derek, thanks so much for talking with us.

CIANFRANCE: Thank you. I appreciate it.

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