Reign Over Me director uses the details in his work


tracy bennett/columbia pictures


Mike Binder, centre, directs a scene in his film Reign Over Me with Adam Sandler, left, and Don Cheadle.



It’s not everyday that a reporter interviews a reporter.

Mike Binder isn’t one, technically, although he’s just about everything else — writer, director and actor, and he picks up all three credits for Reign Over Me. But sometimes, Binder says, his work “feels like reportage.

“I like to watch people, I like to observe — on the street, in a restaurant, at the airport, wherever,” he says. “And I take all the details and characteristics back to my work, as if I’m reporting on it.”

Asked whether this relates to his writing, directing, acting or even his roots in stand-up comedy, Binder offers a sweeping response: “All of it.”

His latest endeavour, a star-studded film led by Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, distills this ethic right down to how the movie was filmed — Binder avoided the “helicopter shots” of New York city and its iconic landmarks, instead opting for street-level camera work that follows his wounded hero Charlie through lonely streets and past everyday locales.

Surprisingly, perhaps, for a movie that depicts a widower who lost his entire family in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Binder avoids cashing in on the dramatic event itself. There are no heavy-handed references, there isn’t a slow-motion montage of crash footage set to a tragic score. The actual mention of the event in fact shows up past the film’s halfway point and this, says Binder, was intentional.

“I was back (in New York) two or three years later,” Binder says, after noting he was actually in the city when the towers were struck. “I thought: There are people still walking the streets that that day has never ended for.

“And the tragedy is still there,” he continues. “It’s under the surface of the city’s consciousness, I mean, there’s a hole where the towers used to be. And in this movie, I wanted it the same — just under the surface.”