Ive got to say I never expected that. I never expected it to be as polarizing as it is. Ive been taken aback by that and by how negatively people are perceiving it. I think its good. Id rather polarize people than have people say its okay, or leave the theater and not think about it. So yeah, I think its good. Id rather people be passionate one way or the other. Obviously Id prefer more of the positive (laughing). But Id probably prefer a really strong negative reaction to, Yeah, its okay.
Ive read a fair share of reviews that compare The United States of Leland to Donnie Darko and even to American Beauty. What do you think about those comparisons?
To be honest, I think thats laziness. I think thats laziness on the part of reviewers because they are saying American Beauty. Why is it similar at all, other than the cast? With Donnie Darko, I think its Jena. The cast invites that comparison. I just think if you sit down and honestly think about it or discuss it, I dont see how there really is any commonality. Our film is not about suburbia, its just set there. I get frustrated with that because those are both films that I admire but I feel like the only thing they have in common is maybe a cast element and the idea that they are very thoughtful films that are trying to be about something more than most films are. Im kind of frustrated by it because no one ever sort of backs it up and says, Its like this film and here are the reasons why. I dont think there really are reasons why. I think they are touching on those two films because they are films that have sort of strayed from the mainstream filmmaking concerns. Thats my angry rant (laughing).
As a screenwriter, can you ever do too much research?
I think it does reach a point where youre researching because youre afraid to write (laughing). I think it is very possible. For this it was like research, but I was paying the bills with it, too. It wasnt like I had to go research this film because I had to go pay the rent so I better show up to teach or else there would be no food on the table for Mr. Hoge.
Do you think a short shooting schedule benefits a film like this?
I dont think there is any other way you could make a film like this, without a short shooting schedule. Nobody was ever going to give me 150 days to shoot it so... You always want more than you have. It was actually good. It forced us to rehearse quite a bit but I think that was really good because then you show up at set and you really dont have to deal with questions of who is this character and where is this character coming from or where do I put the camera. You know all that stuff by the time you get to the set. Youre spending so much money shooting, it really doesnt make sense not to know it. You always want more time but Im always amazed at how much time is wasted sometimes.
Did you shoot a lot more than you used in the final cut?
I think the first cut was about an hour over what we have. There are some scenes with Kevin and Lena [Olin] that we took out. That was probably the biggest loss. Theyre great scenes but as the film goes on, the focus has to narrow, the focus has to really hone in on Leland and Pearl, instead of scenes with Albert and Marybeth and their dynamic and their relationship. The film couldnt hold it.
Would you ever go back and do a Directors Cut and put scenes such as those back in?
No, I dont think so because I think this really is the Directors Cut. These are the cuts that I wanted to make. Those scenes are really great but to put them back in, it hurts the film as a whole. It was a hard adjustment to make, and its painful to take that stuff out, but its a better film with the stuff out.
How much input did Kevin Spacey have on the final cut?
Hes a great film mind and so it was great to be able to have him as a resource in calling him up and saying, Heres a scene that I know is not working. Can you please give us your advice? He would come in and say, Take those 10 frames out or Flip-flop these shots. And he was right about 85% of the time. Hes just got a great film mind. His approach is also, with the film, he really wanted to help me clarify my intentions, to make the film I wanted to make. It was never a question of Kevin saying, I want my final cut on this. There wasnt any fighting about I wanted to do it one way and Kevin wanted to do it another way. I think his approach was, I trust Matt. I trust where he is going and when I speak up its going to be to help him tell the story he wants to tell. That was invaluable to have a guy that smart and that classy about it to help me sort of figure out where I was going.
PAGE 5: Matthew Hoge on Future Plans
"The United States of Leland" Photos, Credits, and Movie News