NEW YORK MAGAZINE has reported that Paul Greengrass is writing ‘Memphis’. It will be the biopic of Martin Luther King Jr.
Arguably an investigative journalist at heart, Greengrass’ research is apparently looking at the year in which Luther King Jr. was assassinated: 1968. There is as much conspiracy surrounding his assassination as there is for JFK.
[top image Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., (c) africawithin.com]
Producer Scott Rubin (The Truman Show, Team America, The Royal Tenenbaums) is rumoured to be working with him for Memphis.
It is also understood that the Bourne series will continue without Greengrass – and rumours continue to spiral that he is lined up to direct Sony’s forthcoming 3D Cleopatra film, and Angelina Jolie has already agreed to the project.
Here is an interview piece with the director which I wrote for M+ Magazine [click!].
(Many thanks to film writer Alec Hawley and politics writer Alena Eis.)
PAUL GREENGRASS IS NO visitor to media’s front line of the dark life, having graduated from the School of Dirty Fingernails and Watch-Your-Goddamned-Back, otherwise known as investigative journalism.
Greengrass’ training ground was in the studios of Manchester’s very own Quay Street, at Granada’s long-running weekly current affairs series World In Action. The programmes would investigate acute issues and broadcast them to huge audiences.
This genre is now confined to the one-off Cutting Edge or Panorama, and perhaps this lack of tough questioning (bar Paxman in a 24-hour news culture) is the cause of widespread cynicism and apathy within the iGeneration. Is this where cinema now comes into play – crucial in an era where the picture houses take less revenue? Were the Bourne films the first to tackle this?
“The audience that loved the Bourne films… there were two important things about it. Firstly, it was that audience that was being asked to fight that war. And, it was from the audience that people opposed that war. So you had both ends of the spectrum.”
Greengrass’ demeanour could pass for soft and reflective, but he has a very bright, and almost aggressive intelligence. His face barely moves and he talks with a hardness which one imagines being the result of years of unearthing truths and squeezing blood from supposedly non-suspect stones.
“The truth is that after The Bourne Supremacy, I wanted to do a film about 9/11,” he says, referencing United 93, his hit film about the terrorist plane which crash landed in Pennsylvania after the passengers foiled the hijackers. “[And] I wanted to do a film about Iraq, because those were the two things that were – that seemed to me – to everybody, to be driving our world.”
The Bourne series of films – high octane, action/conspiracy thrillers, fed off the doubt surrounding the September 11 attacks with the theme of amnesia and in-fighting between the government and intelligence agencies.
“There was an attitude about those films that was about – ‘they’re not telling us the truth’, ‘we need to find the truth’, and it seemed to me that we had an opportunity to ask that audience to that one step through the curtain and back to the real world back to the intrigue-filled, conspiracy-laden weeks before and after the invasion.”
“Somewhere in that tangled thicket of events and conflicted agendas from which all of that, stuff, started, and that’s really what begat Green Zone.”
Before United 93, before Bourne and before Green Zone, Paul Greengrass had co-written the security-threat of a book Spycatcher, which controversially unveiled MI5 tactics to a surprised public. In his role as director, he appears to fully understand how important the role of cinema is in a society that increasingly suspects the powers that be. “In any film you try and have a sense of what you are trying to achieve. Cinema remains alive and directly engages the world that we live in.”
Though he remains realistic: “Now you can’t have every movie like that, because people go to the movies, including me, for very different reasons,” he says, with the gentler voice of the observer – the artist – beginning to emerge. “You know, to escape to a fantasy world, to experience love and romance, to laugh – but in that waterfront of movies you need some of your major pieces…that they feel fuelled by what’s really going on out there.”
The director’s latest offering was Green Zone. The title is eponymous with the US base set up in Iraq following the attack on Baghdad in April 2003. There is a memorable scene in the film where it is realised in a most scathing way: “You guys got Dominos pizza and a fucking beer?” The screen reveals a high contrast between the reality of Iraq, where are children playing in the shattered streets, and the unnervingly glamorous army swimming pool. It is overlooked by a palace, which in the film, once belonged to Iraq’s republican party. It is the centrepiece of a sickeningly startling image. And Greengrass is not afraid of what his rhetoric may imply. He is somewhat unforgiving about his latest film.
“I’m sure Mr Blair and Mr Bush will find it extremely, ah, exciting and dramatic.
“In fact, I might set up a screening for them.”