After earning an Academy Award for his debut film, the dark, Cold War-era drama “The Lives of Others,” German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck wanted to try a change of pace. And he couldn’t have gotten much more different than “The Tourist,” a big-budget romance caper starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.
You’re credited with penning the film along with two other writers. How was that process?
I read a script that Julian Fellowes, Christopher McQuarrie and, I think, three or four others had contributed to. Or four or five others. And still, it was a script that nobody would have been happy with. It was just one of those scripts that had been developed under so many different influences, you could tell that it was a slightly schizophrenic script. And so I just wrote what I imagined the film to be like.
What were your biggest changes?
I wanted to make it into a true love story between these people, and I also wanted people to think throughout the whole film, “Is this guy the person they’re looking for or not?” And for them to flip back and forth, for this not to be a film that somehow a surprise comes out of nowhere at the end, but for it to really be a constant cat-and-mouse game.
The finished film has a distinct sense of fun to it.
When I screened a rough cut, it played really well, but it played too much like a comedy. So I actually started cutting out a lot of the humor. And the studio at first was a little worried because they said, “Hey no, no, wait. We don’t take comedy out of things.” And I said we’ll still have enough of it, because I don’t want people to be laughing in this film, I want them to be smiling.
There are hardly any other women onscreen besides Angelina Jolie.
There’s not a single other female speaking onscreen. I feel she’s so scintillating and exciting as a woman, it’s hard for other women to really be able to shine next to her. And also a lot of these people are just cops who are chasing her. If some of them had been women, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time explaining, “How did they as women feel about this incredibly beautiful woman?” And that’s why there’s not a single other word spoken by a woman other than Angelina. She’s enough woman for an entire film.