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Director Chris Terrio Talks About "Heights"

First-Time Feature Film Director Terrio Tackles "Heights"


Chris Terrio Directs Heights

"Heights" Director Chris Terrio

Chris Terrio on Directing a Large Ensemble Piece: Director Chris Terrio did a terrific job of directing a large ensemble cast in his directorial debut, "Heights," a captivating indie starring Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, and James Marsden.

On tackling such a complicated, interwoven plot, Terrio said, "It’s sort of a game of spinning plates and figuring out how much time to give to each [character]. I had a great editor named Sloane Klevin and she was very hard on me so that if we were spending… Even after the film was shot, if we were spending too much time on one character she would right away pipe up and say, ‘I feel like we’re losing this other thread because we’re spending too much time here.’ So the thing is, while I do have to keep an eye on where the whole movie’s going, I guess I take sort of [the approach] that if one bit seems real when I’m working on it that day, then that’s my job for that day. Then hopefully the next day I can make the other bits seem real. The macro is lost a little bit to the attention on the micro. You just sort of hope that it’s been conceived well enough that it will all pull together.”

On the Need for “Heights” to be Set in New York: “I don’t think it could have been set anywhere else. The thing about New York is we’re always rubbing elbows with other human beings to such a degree that hopefully a movie like this is not completely implausible. Of course, with any multi-character story in which there are coincidences and unexpected interactions, you run the risk of it being implausible and preposterous. But New York is such a preposterous place anyway that I think that these unlikely things happen a lot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the subway in a city of 8 million people and have run into a friend from college randomly or run into whoever, my roommates on the subway in a completely different part of the city from where I live.

And also visually New York is such a big part of what the film is. There’s a kind of romance about the city and the way that it’s shot in the city, I hope. One of the reasons that Ismail Merchant wanted to make the film in New York so much was that after September 11th, he felt like since his company has been headquartered in New York for 35 years, even though most people associate Merchant/Ivory with London and Paris, after September 11th he wanted to make the film at home – in his home city of New York. I think that the romance of the city, the kind of Woody Allen romance of the skyline, was taken away from us a bit on September 11th. So in as much as one could do this with a small film, I wanted to just restore that visually a little bit. I wanted to kind of give you those longing romantic views of vertical space, of skyscrapers and towers and that kind of stuff.

Jim Denault, who is the [director of photography], I think managed to do that in a way that’s romantic and realistic at the same time. There are these soaring towers and yet he bathes them in this sort of green/blue light that’s a very modern kind of urban thing. I love the look of the film. I think he did a great job. And hopefully we succeeded in doing a more contemporary romance.”

Chris Terrio on the Mix of Newcomers and Seasoned Veterans in “Heights:” “Basically the casting was by hook and by crook. We’d figure out our dream person and then go after that person.

There were all kinds of unexpected things. I wanted Eric Bogosian for the character of Henry, but Eric is always so busy with his writing and his acting and whatever that I thought that the chances were slim. And then I was at the Gotham Awards right before shooting because Glenn [Close] was getting a lifetime achievement award, and Eric was sitting at the other table. I kind of went up and accosted the poor guy and gave him the script, and then eventually he agreed to do it. And now the Henry/Diana relationship is one of my favorite relationships in the film because I think Eric and Glenn… I mean, they hadn’t really met before but they just met each other and totally hit it off and totally just got it. And so I think when you see them you really feel that it’s a relationship that might have been going on for 25 years, as I imagined it to have been – from the time they were teenagers or something. You know Henry and Diana had been friends for a long time - or at least immediately post-college Henry and Diana had been friends - so that was a nice surprise that just came out of the chemistry between the two of them.

Similarly with Rufus Wainwright. I desperately wanted him for this part but I had no idea what he was going to be in front of the camera. I mean, I’d seen him perform and sing, but I’d never seen him act before. And so once we actually got him on set and I realized how sort of interesting and magnetic and idiosyncratic he was in front of the camera, I thought, ‘He’s going to be a movie star.’ He’s great.”

PAGE 2: Terrio on Casting Rufus Wainwright and Directing Glenn Close

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