Friday, December 5, 2014



SSN Insider spoke to Baer about the highs and lows on the road to production, Jolie’s casting instincts, and his advice to producers who are slowly trudging uphill to get their passion projects to the screen.
SSN: This project has been more than a decade in the making for you, so what was the first public screening like?
It was incredibly emotional to finally see Lou’s story on the big screen after so many years of dreaming about it. I loved the fact that we were back in Australia where the film was made. It was very satisfying.
SSN: There’ve been a lot of ups and downs over the years, obviously, so was there a low point for you? Was there a time you thought about giving up?
The lowest point was around 2004, when it didn’t seem like anybody was interested in Lou’s story in a big enough way to make it [with] a big enough budget to do it properly. I had the advantage of knowing that Laura Hillenbrand’s book would come out. Were it not for that fact I really would have been at my lowest. But because Seabiscuit had become such a big hit, I felt confident that Laura’s book would be a success and give Universal a reason to move forward, and that’s what happened. I didn’t know it would take Laura eight years to write the book, though.
SSN: And the highest moment so far?
The highest moment was when I got word that we were greenlit, and I did something I had waited fifteen years to do—I called Lou. I said, ‘congratulations Lou, your movie is finally going to be made.’
SSN: You and Angelina became close with him during this process, right?
Very. Lou was very involved from the beginning. If there was something that was not in the book, we would call Lou and ask him about it. He was a consultant of the highest degree. The highlight of my journey on this is that he lived long enough for me to make that call.
SSN: There’s been awards buzz surrounding both Jack O’Connell and Miyavi. Can you talk about the casting process?
The casting is fundamentally Angelina’s vision from top to bottom. She has a remarkable instinct for casting and the film speaks for itself in that way. We had to cast somebody who could play seventeen and into their twenties, and we weren’t in the position of saying, ‘OK we’re going to Benjamin Button them.’ We had to find someone who could play that age range who was a great actor. I’ve always said this part is the Raging Bull turn for an actor because it requires physical metamorphosis and stamina.
SSN: Did they audition?
Jack had been percolating in the U.S. casting world because of Skins, but he hadn’t broken in any way. Casting director Francine Maisler suggested that Angelina meet him, and Angelina instantly knew he was the guy. She emailed and said, ‘I found Lou.’
SSN: And what about Miyavi?
When we started, Angie wanted the character be multi-dimensional. He was a complicated man, and she wanted somebody that had the bravado and fearlessness to take on a part that was potentially controversial and be able to hold the frame. She felt that a rock performer used to commanding attention would be an interesting choice.
I talked to (Japanese casting director) Yoko Narahashi and Angie asked for a list of Japanese rock stars. Miyavi’s name was on the list, and Angie looked him up and said, ‘I think this is him. I have a good instinct about him.’ He [taped] an audition and it was fantastic. He’s getting so much attention now.
SSN: Here you are, nearly fifteen years later, with a film that’s premiered to amazing reviews, and has awards buzz surrounding it. What’s your advice to producers who struggle to get their passion projects made?
 Every producer has his or her [own] passion project. My passion project became the subject of an extraordinary book that gave validity to Lou Zamperini’s story. I’m fortunate to have had that happen. What I can best say to producers is if you believe in something so much, you never know what’s going to happen. The best any producer can do is stick to their guns no matter what. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. I’m incredibly grateful that on this one I got an amazing break.

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