What's Rene Russo been up to lately? Staying up late, avoiding restaurants that tip-off TMZ and worrying about drones. So you know, the usual. In "Nightcrawler," written and directed by her husband, Dan Gilroy, Russo stars as a tough but desperate news director at a failing L.A. local station who turns to a freelance videographer (Jake Gyllenhaal) for some sensational footage. And she's had a lot on her mind.
At what point did Dan first tell you about this idea?
Like, a long time ago he told me about it. He came home one day and told me about " nightcrawlers " — or "stringers," they're sometimes called — and I had no idea, but they come out after dark obviously and they have the night shift where they go around and they photograph during the bewitching hour. I drive around late at night, I have a friend and I'm a night person, and I'll be out at 2 o'clock in the morning. So now I'm looking around me going, "Whoa, is that a nightcrawler ?"
You have a habit of going out late at night?
OK, so I have a friend and we're both night owls. Usually I'm at home and I just watch documentaries or I answer emails because I just don't know, night time for me is really magical. I love the night. I mean, I'll just go out into my backyard and look at the moon at night. I've seen some beautiful moon-sets. I think my natural clock would probably be from 2 to 10. Like, that would be perfect, but I've kind of gotten into the bad habit of [staying up until] 3 or 4. (laughs) Unfortunately then, if I have to start working like I've been working then I'm up at 4. So that's always lovely, to try to turn my clock around. But you know what? I'm in love with the moon, what can I say? I'm a moon girl.
I always appreciate a movie that doesn't judge its characters and lets you make up your own mind about what you're watching.
Exactly! And what's really interesting about this movie is depending on sometimes gender — and I don't mean all the time — or age, you'll look at this movie differently. Young people, young men and women, I don't know if they are even looking at it in the same way because I don't think they've hit that desperation in terms of their job, you know? Young people that maybe haven't lived enough to cross as many moral boundaries are like, "Wow, that's f---ed up." I'm like, "OK, let me check back in with you in 40 years." (laughs) "You need to get back in the oven and cook a little bit."
The work that these guys do kept making me think of TMZ and the amateur paparazzi industry that's sprung up from that.
Look, here's the deal with that: I am not Angelina Jolie. I can pretty much go out of my house. Has TMZ come up to me? Yes. I deal with things with humor. This is what it is, so have some fun. But I am not Lindsay Lohan, that's not who I am. And I think if that were my life it would be very different, it would be really, really hard for me. Because I'm very private. I mean, there are some restaurants that I don't really want to go to because, like, "Oh crap, I don't want to wash my hair, because you know TMZ is going to be there." Because these restaurants, they call them. And it's not like everyone's going to jump, "It's Rene!" But still, some will show up. (laughs) I mean, I do think that way.
I can't imagine.
It's very scary, actually. The other day I was sitting at a restaurant, talking, blah blah blah. It was a crowded restaurant, tables were very close, and I looked over and there was a phone right next to me and the red light was on and I was being recorded the whole time. And that's happened to me twice. And I thought, "Oh my God, what did I say? What did I say?" And I now sit facing the wall, because people get you eating a hamburger and your f---ing onions or tomatoes are falling out of your mouth, and they have no problem just holding it up and taking a picture. I mean, like no problem at all. So that stuff, that's hard.
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The loss of manners that seems to have coincided with everyone having a camera in their phone is pretty startling.
It's unbelievable. And I'm thinking now, look at technology. You can get a tiny little beetle-sized thing in a room with a camera. I mean, is that what we're looking at? I don't mean to be paranoid, but I have to say the last time I was in a hotel I thought, Do they put cameras in rooms? Not just with me but with everyone? Where's that going, with drones that go right up to your window and take pictures. It's a scary world in terms of privacy.
We're just getting cameras everywhere now.
It's going to get more and more that way. I remember the ' 70s , when we didn't have to worry about any of this an you just went to a pay phone. I said to my daughter, "You know what, Rosie? There are some good things about social media and about texting constantly, but there was something also about walking down the street with your head up." No one looks up, no one does it.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick