TONY GILROY made his feature film directorial debut with the Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton, for which he was nominated for both an Academy Award for Best Director and Directors Guild Award. An acclaimed screenwriter, Gilroy spent seven years working on the trilogy of Bourne films: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and the hit The Bourne Ultimatum.
Gilroy has also written three screenplays for director Taylor Hackford: Dolores Claiborne, based on the novel by Stephen King and starring Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh; The Devil's Advocate, starring Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino and Charlize Theron; and Proof of Life, starring Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan, which Gilroy also executive produced. In addition, Gilroy co-wrote the screenplay for Universal Pictures' upcoming film State of Play, starring Russell Crowe, based on the BBC miniseries of the same title.
Gilroy's additional writing credits include Michael Bay's blockbuster Armageddon, starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler and Billy Bob Thornton; Michael Apted's Extreme Measures, starring Gene Hackman, Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker; The Cutting Edge, starring D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly; and the television movie For Better and for Worse, starring Patrick Dempsey and Kelly Lynch.
Raised in upstate New York, Gilroy is the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and filmmaker Frank D. Gilroy. His brother Dan Gilroy is a screenwriter, and his brother John Gilroy is a film editor who also worked on Michael Clayton and Duplicity.
Q. How did you come up with the idea of Duplicity?
Six or seven years ago I met Steven Soderbergh and he wanted to do a spy movie, but I had worked on several and was a bit burnt-out, so I looked for a different angle. I found out many of the people from the intelligence world were leaving it and going private and that interested him. And I liked the idea of also doing a love story between spies and imagining what their real romantic life must be like.
Q. So, that is where the game of deceit began.
Yes, because I wanted to write a script about people getting together whose whole lives were based on being liars and whose mindsets were based on not believing what they were told. And that's what I did!
Q. When did you decide to direct it?
Steven couldn't do it at the time and then other directors got involved, but it never fully landed. And when I was shooting Michael Clayton and started to realize I like directing and maybe I could get another opportunity to do it again I pulled Duplicity off the shelve.
Q. And the idea of a spy love story set in the middle of a corporate war hadn't really been done before.
I know; it was such a juicy idea. It wouldn't have surprised me to open Variety any morning only to discover that someone else was doing it.
Q. Your first two movies behind the camera have dealt with the nuances of the corporate world. What fascinates you about that world and those huge companies?
It is a coincidence that my first two movies as a director have to do with that world, but I am interested in these companies and on how they are like little countries. I mean, in a way, what's the difference between a corporation and a feudal kingdom? You have the king, the court, the knights and the other castle down the road that have stolen their virgins.
Q. How real is the corporate espionage that you show in the film?
All you need to do is spend 5 minutes online and search for "competitive intelligence" to see that is all true. Everything we show in the movie has happened.
Q. How did you manage to put this amazing cast together?
I think the movie gods were on my side. Honestly, luck is important. Think of all the great films that were never made because something didn't go the right way. It's like wheels within wheels turning. And the trick of a Hollywood career is to put yourself in a position where you can gain in that system and try to play those wheels to your best advantage.
Q. Was Clive Owen the first actor to come on board?
Yes, George Clooney -who knew the script- introduced me to him at a party and out of the blue he told me that I should get him to do Duplicity. I knew Clive Owen before as a tough guy in a suit, but I realized when I met him that George was right because he was so charming and funny, and it would take someone that is also a bit goofy to play Ray. So, when I finished Michael Clayton and Duplicity came around again I sent the script to Clive and asked him to read it.
Q. What did he respond?
He immediately responded that he was in. Then it was all about figuring out a way to get Julia Roberts to play Claire.
Q. And how did you achieve that?
We all called her, lit bonfires on her lawn, and just waited…
Q. Their chemistry is key in this movie.
Yes, it's like life and death. And you never know if you are going to get it, no matter how experienced you are, because there are people who adore each other but don't have that chemistry on screen and then others that hate each other but have it. You just don't know.
Q. What scene in Duplicity do you think best reflects that great chemistry they have?
It's hard for me to say, but there is a long scene I really like that takes place in a hotel in Rome which shows their relationship in a microcosm, with bits and pieces of what they are going through. My brother John cut it together on a day off and asked me to come and see it, and I thought: "Wow, they really have something!"
Q. Tom Wilkinson plays the CEO of one of the two companies that are at corporate war. What was it like to work with him again after Michael Clayton?
I had to have Tom, because I knew that if I had him in that part I would never have to worry about it and could tick it off my mental checklist.
Q. What did you think of Paul Giamatti's performance in the role of the CEO of the opposing corporation?
Paul came in later and I just can't imagine making the movie without him. He was a huge anchor for me.
Q. And you were fortunate enough to shoot in some of the real locations that appear in the film?
We ran a tight ship and made sure that every single penny we had went on the screen, but were lucky enough to shoot in New York and also find a way to go to The Bahamas and Rome.
Q. How helpful was it for you to rehearse with the actors a week before starting the shoot?
It helped me a lot, though I pretended it was for them; but it was really for me. I think the rehearsal process is probably better for the writer than for anybody else.
Q. Duplicity has a very clever plot that enables you to go back and forth in time, which must have been a fun and tricky instrument to play with as a filmmaker.
Yes, a lot of it was done in the editing process, where we tried to find ways of keeping the movie as smart and understandable as possible.
Q. And it has a very classic and timeless feel to it.
That's what we were going for. We didn't want to just make a product, rather a film we could watch again in 20 years.
Q. Does it surprise you to be considered as a director now?
When people ask me what I do I still say I'm a writer, but I guess I'm a director now too.
Q. What has directing brought to you?
I think it has helped me be a better writer, because now I am more economical in my writing. And even though there is a lot of dialogue in Duplicity, I also feel you could almost see it without any sound and still be able to tell what's going on.
READ MORE ABOUT DUPLICITY
READ MORE ABOUT MICHAEL CLAYTON
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© 2008 Universal Studios.