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Exclusive Interview With Anthony and Joe Russo
by Rebecca Murray

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo on the set of "Welcome to Collinwood"
Photo©Warner Bros. Pictures - All Rights Reserved.

 More of this Feature

• Casting the Film, One Way Tickets to Cleveland
• Steven Soderbergh Works Behind-the-Scenes

ADDITIONAL "Welcome to Collinwood" INFORMATION:

• "Welcome to Collinwood" Production Photos
• "Welcome to Collinwood" Trailer, Credits and Websites
• One on One With William H. Macy
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• News on Upcoming Releases
• New in Theatres or on Video
• Movie Reviews
• Casting News
 Elsewhere on the Internet

• Warner Bros.

Joe and Anthony Russo make their feature film directorial debut with the heist comedy, "Welcome to Collinwood." Even though the film is from a script they wrote and they directed the picture, most questions directed at this brother team usually revolve around their connection to Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney.

After viewing their student film, "Pieces," at a film festival, Soderbergh approached the duo and offered them his assistance. "Welcome to Collinwood" is the product of their collaborative effort. Backed by Soderbergh and Clooney's newly formed Section 8 production company, the Russos' vision of a series of films set in various Cleveland neighborhoods has taken root, with "Welcome to Collinwood" being the first fruit from what will hopefully prove to be a very healthy tree.


Getting hooked up with Steven Soderbergh couldn't have happened as magically as it sounds, could it? Is yours a real Cinderella story?
Joe: It was a lot of fretting and worrying before we hooked up with him. We made our first movie out of our own movie, which we are still paying off. It was a long road. That film took us three years to get to the screen. We took it to the IFFM in New York City. It's a strange movie piece and we love it. It's very riotous and experimental. It's the kind of movie that studio executives walk out of; it's not really their cup of tea. We took it to the IFFM, plastered the city, and we really worked hard to get the theater filled. Everybody walked out the door and the only one who stopped on the way out was John Fitzgerald who ran Slamdance. He said, “I really love this movie and I want to program it.”

We did the same thing when we got to Park City. We plastered the town and got a lot of great response from festivalgoers but from the industry, it was nothing. We left kind of with our hat in our hands. A week later we got a phone call. Turns out that Steven Soderbergh had wandered in to one of the screenings. He called my house - I was in UCLA housing at grad school for film. I just had a baby daughter and she was crawling around on the floor and my wife was cooking Mac and Cheese because we were broke. The phone rang and it was Steven.

And you said, “Yeah, right, sure you are…”
Joe: (Laughing) That's the first thing you think, who is screwing with you and who is jerking your chain? It was so bizarre to get the phone call from him because we were part of that indie movement that he founded. We were academics. We had come at film more from an intellectual point of view. We weren't the guys in the backyard shooting movies when we were 8 years old. We were studying movies. To get a phone call from him, the man who was really the Godfather of the indie movement we felt like we were part of at that time - or trying to be a part of - just blew us away.

Anthony: The other thing to mention about our relationship with Soderbergh is even after he initially contacted us and we started sitting down with him and he said he wanted to help us make something, it was three more years before we finally started to make “Collinwood” together.

Did you immediately start work on a screenplay?
Anthony: We started writing immediately. Basically he said, “I can try to help you guys find a script or you can keep writing.” We said, “Well, we've got this concept in our heads." This concept has been developing in our heads about doing a series of films all set in different Cleveland neighborhoods. Different genres, different scopes, and not connected narratively. So we went to work writing right away. That's really how we learned to write screenplays.

The screenplay we wrote for “Pieces” was very riotous. We were very much interested in violating every convention of classical story structure. We wanted to actually work within the elements of classical story structure, which is a lot harder. It took us a while to work the various stories that we were exploring at the time, and get them into shape. When you turn in something to Steven Soderbergh, you have to really feel like it's great or else you can't get yourself to ask him to read it.

There was a lot of pressure. We really beat ourselves up for three years, and beat up the screenplays - trying to figure it all out. Thankfully, right about the time we were completing that cycle of work, he was forming a production company with George Clooney. It was kind of nicely tied in to where we felt like we were ready with several scripts and boom, he had a means to produce them now with his own company.

Was there ever a time when you almost gave up on writing and looked for another project to direct?
Anthony: We did explore some other screenplays while we were doing this. The thing is, when you don't have a name - when you haven't established yourself as a commercially viable director - when you find stuff that you like, it tends to get snapped up by people who have more credibility than you do in the industry. Occasionally we would find something that we liked but we couldn't really get attached to it. That was the difficult part.

Casting the Film and One-Way Tickets to Cleveland - >Anthony and Joe Russo Interview Continued - Page 2

"Welcome to Collinwood" Production Photos

"Welcome to Collinwood" Premiere Coverage, Credits and Websites

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