Director Joe Wright, who made a name for himself with “Pride and
Prejudice” and “Atonement,” takes quite the departure with his latest,
“Hanna,” about a 16-year-old trained assassin (Saoirse Ronan) on the run
across Europe, pursued by a calculating CIA agent (Cate Blanchett).
Surprisingly, Wright saw the action thriller as a chance to get in touch
with his own childhood. He spoke with Metro about his parents’ puppet
theater, creepy Cold War-era amusement parks and the necessity of flashy
single-shot action sequences.
Much like the four-minute-long Dunkirk sequence in “Atonement,” you have
an impressive action sequence in the Berlin subway that’s done in a
Both of them were done out of necessity. A sequence like
this one would normally require maybe 40 different shots, and as I only
ever manage about 14 a day, and as we only had one day to shoot this
sequence, I kind of was up against the wall.
Most action movie fight scenes now are edited so tightly, it’s hard to
I’m a big fan of Paul Greengrass’ work on the Jason Bourne
films, but I do feel like they’ve been imitated probably by lesser
directors since, and I didn’t want to fall into that category. I wanted
to do something that didn’t succumb to the temptation of hiding the
action in a barrage of edits.
The film climaxes in a rather creepy, old amusement park. Where did that
I think my sister used to go to some illegal raves there in
the early ’90s. And so she told me about it, and it was just an amazing
find, really. It really spoke to the themes and the imagery of fairy
tales that I was trying to unearth. It was pretty much how we found it.
I can’t imagine anyone thinking that’s a place kids would enjoy.
know! [laughs] I’ve seen some picture postcards of it from the ’60s. It
was like the top venue for families in East Berlin, so before the Wall
came down, that’s where you’d go on your day out. Then when the Wall
came down, they all went shopping instead.
You tend to re-team with a lot of the same actors and crew members on
I was brought up in a puppet theater, so I’ve always kind of
aspired to that kind of company feeling, really. We’d go on tour every
summer with the puppets and make these great journeys across Europe in a
couple of old Ford vans. So that’s kind of what I’m trying to recreate
with my filmmaking family. It creates quite a safe environment — safe in
a good way — that enables us to be creative without looking over our
shoulders. And I find that I can be silly and myself and accepted.
Did you say a puppet theater?
My parents founded the theater. It’s
called the Little Angel Theater, and it’s in North London. It’s still
running today — without my dad, sadly. But it’s still running today. My
mum makes a lot of the puppets. She always makes some kind of prop or
something for every film I make.
What did she do on your other films?
On “Pride and Prejudice,” she made
the silk bookmark that Elizabeth has got in her book in the very first
shot of the film. In “Atonement,” she painted the dolls’ house that’s in
the very beginning. She also made a whole set of “Atonement” dolls as
well, which actually never appeared in the film, but that was her. I
forget what she did in “the Soloist.” Maybe she didn’t do anything, and
that’s why it wasn’t a commercial success.