Ruth De Jong
AS: So in terms of hiring your own crew you look for that same kind of–
RDJ: Tenacity! And excitement! The passion for what you’re doing. You can’t train someone to have that attitude. It’s innate.
Art director David Crank (who was Jack’s art director on There Will Be Blood and previously the New World) has a very similar attitude. It’s, Can do. It’s, Yes. It’s, Let me. It’s never, No. I love folks who are excited to be there, who chose to embrace filmmaking. Jack instilled this in me. He’d say, Until the film is finished that’s your moment, then it’s frozen on that final cut. There’s no going back. You’re in it for the nine months, twelve months. Whatever the range is. And I look for the people who are dedicated to being in it. And then, when they’re off, they can be totally off. You commit to a project and then you can take a whole year off if you want.
Jack and I are still very close. My family’s also in Virginia, very close to his family. We often laugh and talk about crew and what we’re going through–the positives and the struggles. It’s getting harder and harder to find folks that are dedicated in that moment in time to that project. Because logistics come up. There are so many things that are out of your control. When you’re thinking you have Saturday off, you suddenly have to go find a new location. Jack and I would just jump in a car and cold scout all weekends together, regardless of if we were getting paid or not. I don’t demand that of my crew—you can’t—but you find those people that are very similar and it’s amazing.
AS: John Myhre talked about people who show up on set and complain. He’d say, But we’re making a movie, isn’t that fantastic?
RDJ: It’s all attitude. I’ve been able to find similar attitudes in the crewmembers that have been with me a long time. My decorator, who was with me for most of the start of my production design career, has gone on and is now production designing. My first art director, who’s also been with me the bulk of my career, is now production designing. And I love that. I did the same with Jack. Revenant was where I was offered Manchester by the Sea to design for Kenneth Lonergan and Jack said, You gotta do it. Even though I really want your support on The Revenant, you gotta do it. It was hard to leave that family. I mean I’d done five movies with Chivo, [Emmanuel Lubezki, DP] at that point and costume designer Jackie West. It was hard to say no to Jack because it was comfortable and I knew we’d make a great film, but I also knew I had reached that place.
AS: Great that you had his support.
RDJ: He totally supported it. And I did the same with my crew. You can’t hold them back. We’ve had this great working relationship and they’re very talented, but when they have a passion to do more, they need to, it’s only fair.
AS: Did you ever study filmmaking in school?
RDJ: I did not go to film school. I don’t encourage film school for production design. I’m not sure for cinematography or directing but for production design there needs to be a freedom and a lack of rules. It’s a very organic thing. Every single director’s different, ever single project is different, how you get to the end goal is different every time.